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Public affairs jobs by Public Affairs Council's Career Center include the most And it's free for the first 30 days. Director of Federal Affairs. Founded in Michigan in as a privately run federal savings bank, Flagstar has steadily developed to become the fifth-largest bank mortgage originator. Over. The office is an equal employment opportunity employer in accordance with the requirements of Senate Rules, regulations and applicable federal laws.

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I. Introduction

"Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California," Library of Congress.

In this famous photograph by Dorothea Lange, a destitute, thirty-two-year-old mother of seven captures the agonies of the Great Depression. Library of Congress.

*The American Yawp is an evolving, collaborative text. Please click here to improve this chapter.*

Hard times had hit the United States before, but never had an economic crisis lasted so long or inflicted as much harm as the slump that followed the crash. After nearly a decade of supposed prosperity, the economy crashed to a halt. People suddenly stopped borrowing and buying. Industries built on debt-fueled purchases sold fewer goods. Retailers lowered prices and, when that did not attract enough buyers to turn profits, they laid off workers to lower labor costs. With so many people out of work and without income, shops sold even less, dropped their prices lower still, and then shed still more workers, creating a vicious downward cycle.

Four years after the crash, the Great Depression reached its lowest point: nearly one in four Americans who wanted a job could not find one and, of those who could, more than half had to settle for part-time work. Farmers could not make enough money from their crops to make harvesting worthwhile. Food rotted in the fields of a starving nation.

The needy drew down whatever savings they had, turned to their families, and sought out charities for public assistance. Soon they all were depleted. Unemployed workers and cash-strapped farmers could not defaulted on their debts, including their mortgages. Already over-extended banks, deprived of income, took savings accounts down with them when they closed. Fear-stricken observers went to their own banks and demanded their deposits. Banks that otherwise might have endured the crisis fell prey to panic, and shut down as well.

With so little being bought and sold, and so little lent and spent, with even bankers unable to lay their hands on money, the nation’s economy ground nearly to a halt. None of the remedies adopted by the president or the Congress succeeded—not higher tariffs, nor restriction of immigration, nor sticking to sound money, nor expressions of confidence in the resilience of the American people. Whatever good these measures achieved, it was not enough.

In the presidential election, the incumbent president, Herbert Hoover, a Republican, promised that he would stand firm against those who, he said, would destroy the U.S. Constitution to restore the economy. Chief among these supposedly dangerous experimenters was the Democratic presidential nominee, New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, who began his campaign by pledging a New Deal for the American people.

The voters chose Roosevelt in a landslide, inaugurating a rapid and enduring transformation in the U.S. government. Even though the New Deal never achieved as much as its proponents hoped or its opponents feared, it did more than any other peacetime program to change how Americans saw their country.

 

“Crowd of people gather outside the New York Stock Exchange following the Crash of ,” Library of Congress, mynewextsetup.us

Crowds of people gather outside the New York Stock Exchange following the crash of Library of Congress.

On Thursday, October 24, , stock market prices suddenly plummeted. Ten billion dollars in investments (roughly equivalent to about $ billion today) disappeared in a matter of hours. Panicked selling set in, stock values sank to sudden lows, and stunned investors crowded the New York Stock Exchange demanding answers. Leading bankers met privately at the offices of J. P. Morgan and raised millions in personal and institutional contributions to halt the slide. They marched across the street and ceremoniously bought stocks at inflated prices. The market temporarily stabilized but fears spread over the weekend and the following week frightened investors dumped their portfolios to avoid further losses. On October 29, Black Tuesday, the stock market began its long precipitous fall. Stock values evaporated. Shares of U.S. Steel dropped from $ to $ General Motors stock fell from $73 a share to $8. Four fifths of J. D. Rockefeller’s fortune—the greatest in American history—vanished.

Although the crash stunned the nation, it exposed the deeper, underlying problems with the American economy in the s. The stock market’s popularity grew throughout the decade, but only percent of Americans had brokerage accounts; the overwhelming majority of Americans had no direct personal stake in Wall Street. The stock market’s collapse, no matter how dramatic, did not by itself depress the American economy. Instead, the crash exposed a great number of factors that, when combined with the financial panic, sank the American economy into the greatest of all economic crises. Rising inequality, declining demand, rural collapse, overextended investors, and the bursting of speculative bubbles all conspired to plunge the nation into the Great Depression.

Despite resistance by Progressives, the vast gap between rich and poor accelerated throughout the early twentieth century. In the aggregate, Americans were better off in than in Per capita income had risen 10 percent for all Americans, but 75 percent for the nation’s wealthiest citizens.1 The return of conservative politics in the s reinforced federal fiscal policies that exacerbated the divide: low corporate and personal taxes, easy credit, and depressed interest rates overwhelmingly favored wealthy investors who, flush with cash, spent their money on luxury goods and speculative investments in the rapidly rising stock market.

The pro-business policies of the s were designed for an American economy built on the production and consumption of durable goods. Yet by the late s, much of the market was saturated. The boom of automobile manufacturing, the great driver of the American economy in the s, slowed as fewer and fewer Americans with the means to purchase a car had not already done so. More and more, the well-to-do had no need for the new automobiles, radios, and other consumer goods that fueled gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the s. When products failed to sell, inventories piled up, manufacturers scaled back production, and companies fired workers, stripping potential consumers of cash, blunting demand for consumer goods, and replicating the downward economic cycle. The situation was only compounded by increased automation and rising efficiency in American factories. Despite impressive overall growth throughout the s, unemployment hovered around 7 percent throughout the decade, suppressing purchasing power for a great swath of potential consumers.2

Photograph of an assembly line at a Ford plant.

While a manufacturing innovation, Henry Ford’s assembly line produced so many cars as to flood the automobile market in the s. Wikimedia.

For American farmers, meanwhile, hard times began long before the markets crashed. In and , after several years of larger-than-average profits, farm prices in the South and West continued their long decline, plummeting as production climbed and domestic and international demand for cotton, foodstuffs, and other agricultural products stalled. Widespread soil exhaustion on western farms only compounded the problem. Farmers found themselves unable to make payments on loans taken out during the good years, and banks in agricultural areas tightened credit in response. By , farm families were overextended, in no shape to make up for declining consumption, and in a precarious economic position even before the Depression wrecked the global economy.3

Despite serious foundational problems in the industrial and agricultural economy, most Americans in and still believed the economy would bounce back. In , amid one of the Depression’s many false hopes, President Herbert Hoover reassured an audience that “the depression is over.”4 But the president was not simply guilty of false optimism. Hoover made many mistakes. During his election campaign, Hoover promoted higher tariffs as a means for encouraging domestic consumption and protecting American farmers from foreign competition. Spurred by the ongoing agricultural depression, Hoover signed into law the highest tariff in American history, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of , just as global markets began to crumble. Other countries responded in kind, tariff walls rose across the globe, and international trade ground to a halt. Between and , international trade dropped from $36 billion to only $12 billion. American exports fell by 78 percent. Combined with overproduction and declining domestic consumption, the tariff exacerbated the world’s economic collapse.5

But beyond structural flaws, speculative bubbles, and destructive protectionism, the final contributing element of the Great Depression was a quintessentially human one: panic. The frantic reaction to the market’s fall aggravated the economy’s other many failings. More economic policies backfired. The Federal Reserve overcorrected in their response to speculation by raising interest rates and tightening credit. Across the country, banks denied loans and called in debts. Their patrons, afraid that reactionary policies meant further financial trouble, rushed to withdraw money before institutions could close their doors, ensuring their fate. Such bank runs were not uncommon in the s, but in , with the economy worsening and panic from the crash accelerating, 1, banks failed. In , nearly 2, banks collapsed, taking personal deposits, savings, and credit with them.6

The Great Depression was the confluence of many problems, most of which had begun during a time of unprecedented economic growth. Fiscal policies of the Republican “business presidents” undoubtedly widened the gap between rich and poor and fostered a standoff over international trade, but such policies were widely popular and, for much of the decade, widely seen as a source of the decade’s explosive growth. With fortunes to be won and standards of living to maintain, few Americans had the foresight or wherewithal to repudiate an age of easy credit, rampant consumerism, and wild speculation. Instead, as the Depression worked its way across the United States, Americans hoped to weather the economic storm as best they could, hoping for some relief from the ever-mounting economic collapse that was strangling so many lives.

 

Photograph of unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone,” February Wikimedia, mynewextsetup.us:Unemployed_men_queued_outside_a_depression_soup_kitchen_opened_in_Chicago_by_Al_Capone,__-_NARA_-_jpg.

Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone. February Wikimedia.

As the Depression spread, public blame settled on President Herbert Hoover and the conservative politics of the Republican Party. In , having won the presidency in a landslide, Hoover had no reason to believe that his presidency would be any different than that of his predecessor, Calvin Coolidge, whose time in office was marked by relative government inaction, seemingly rampant prosperity, and high approval ratings.7Hoover entered office on a wave of popular support, but by October the economic collapse had overwhelmed his presidency. Like all too many Americans, Hoover and his advisors assumed—or perhaps simply hoped—that the sharp financial and economic decline was a temporary downturn, another “bust” of the inevitable boom-bust cycles that stretched back through America’s commercial history. &#;Any lack of confidence in the economic future and the basic strength of business in the United States is simply foolish,&#; he said in November.8 And yet the crisis grew. Unemployment commenced a slow, sickening rise. New-car registrations dropped by almost a quarter within a few months.9 Consumer spending on durable goods dropped by a fifth in 10

When suffering Americans looked to Hoover for help, Hoover could only answer with volunteerism. He asked business leaders to promise to maintain investments and employment and encouraged state and local charities to assist those in need. Hoover established the President’s Organization for Unemployment Relief, or POUR, to help organize the efforts of private agencies. While POUR urged charitable giving, charitable relief organizations were overwhelmed by the growing needs of the many multiplying unemployed, underfed, and unhoused Americans. By mid, for instance, a quarter of all of New York’s private charities closed: they had simply run out of money. In Atlanta, solvent relief charities could only provide $ per week to needy families. The size and scope of the Depression overpowered the radically insufficient capacity of private volunteer organizations to mediate the crisis.11

Although Hoover is sometimes categorized as a “business president” in line with his Republican predecessors, he also embraced a kind of business progressivism, a system of voluntary action called associationalism that assumed Americans could maintain a web of voluntary cooperative organizations dedicated to providing economic assistance and services to those in need. Businesses, the thinking went, would willingly limit harmful practice for the greater economic good. To Hoover, direct government aid would discourage a healthy work ethic while associationalism would encourage the self-control and self-initiative that fueled economic growth. But when the Depression exposed the incapacity of such strategies to produce an economic recovery, Hoover proved insufficiently flexible to recognize the limits of his ideology.12 &#;We cannot legislate ourselves out of a world economic depression,&#; he told Congress in 13

Hoover resisted direct action. As the crisis deepened, even bankers and businessmen and the president&#;s own advisors and appointees all pleaded with him to use the government&#;s power to fight the Depression. But his conservative ideology wouldn&#;t allow him to. He believed in limited government as a matter of principle. Senator Robert Wagner of New York said in that the president&#;s policy was “to do nothing and when the pressure becomes irresistible to do as little as possible.”14 By , with the economy long since stagnant and a reelection campaign looming, Hoover, hoping to stimulate American industry, created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) to provide emergency loans to banks, building-and-loan societies, railroads, and other private industries. It was radical in its use of direct government aid and out of character for the normally laissez-faire Hoover, but it also bypassed needy Americans to bolster industrial and financial interests. New York congressman Fiorello LaGuardia, who later served as mayor of New York City, captured public sentiment when he denounced the RFC as a “millionaire’s dole.”15

 

In a woman from Humboldt County, California, wrote to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt seeking a job for her husband, a surveyor, who had been out of work for nearly two years. The pair had survived on the meager income she received from working at the county courthouse. “My salary could keep us going,” she explained, “but—I am to have a baby.” The family needed temporary help, and, she explained, “after that I can go back to work and we can work out our own salvation. But to have this baby come to a home full of worry and despair, with no money for the things it needs, is not fair. It needs and deserves a happy start in life.”16

As the United States slid ever deeper into the Great Depression, such tragic scenes played out time and time again. Individuals, families, and communities faced the painful, frightening, and often bewildering collapse of the economic institutions on which they depended. The more fortunate were spared the worst effects, and a few even profited from it, but by the end of , the crisis had become so deep and so widespread that most Americans had suffered directly. Markets crashed through no fault of their own. Workers were plunged into poverty because of impersonal forces for which they shared no responsibility.

With rampant unemployment and declining wages, Americans slashed expenses. The fortunate could survive by simply deferring vacations and regular consumer purchases. Middle- and working-class Americans might rely on disappearing credit at neighborhood stores, default on utility bills, or skip meals. Those who could borrowed from relatives or took in boarders in homes or “doubled up” in tenements. But such resources couldn&#;t withstand the unending relentlessness of the economic crisis. As one New York City official explained in ,

When the breadwinner is out of a job he usually exhausts his savings if he has any.… He borrows from his friends and from his relatives until they can stand the burden no longer. He gets credit from the corner grocery store and the butcher shop, and the landlord forgoes collecting the rent until interest and taxes have to be paid and something has to be done. All of these resources are finally exhausted over a period of time, and it becomes necessary for these people, who have never before been in want, to go on assistance.17

But public assistance and private charities were quickly exhausted by the scope of the crisis. As one Detroit city official put it in ,

Many essential public services have been reduced beyond the minimum point absolutely essential to the health and safety of the city.… The salaries of city employees have been twice reduced … and hundreds of faithful employees … have been furloughed. Thus has the city borrowed from its own future welfare to keep its unemployed on the barest subsistence levels.… A wage work plan which had supported 11, families collapsed last month because the city was unable to find funds to pay these unemployed—men who wished to earn their own support. For the coming year, Detroit can see no possibility of preventing wide-spread hunger and slow starvation through its own unaided resources.18

These most desperate Americans, the chronically unemployed, encamped on public or marginal lands in “Hoovervilles,” spontaneous shantytowns that dotted America’s cities, depending on bread lines and street-corner peddling. One doctor recalled that “every day … someone would faint on a streetcar. They’d bring him in, and they wouldn’t ask any questions.… they knew what it was. Hunger.”19

The emotional and psychological shocks of unemployment and underemployment only added to the shocking material depravities of the Depression. Social workers and charity officials, for instance, often found the unemployed suffering from feelings of futility, anger, bitterness, confusion, and loss of pride.20 “A man is not a man without work,” one of the jobless told an interviewer.21 The ideal of the “male breadwinner” was always a fiction for poor Americans, and, during the crisis, women and young children entered the labor force, as they always had. But, in such a labor crisis, many employers, subscribing to traditional notions of male bread-winning, were less likely to hire married women and more likely to dismiss those they already employed.22 As one politician remarked at the time, the woman worker was “the first orphan in the storm.”23

American suppositions about family structure meant that women suffered disproportionately from the Depression. Since the start of the twentieth century, single women had become an increasing share of the workforce, but married women, Americans were likely to believe, took a job because they wanted to and not because they needed it. Once the Depression came, employers were therefore less likely to hire married women and more likely to dismiss those they already employed.24 Women on their own and without regular work suffered a greater threat of sexual violence than their male counterparts; accounts of such women suggest they depended on each other for protection25

The Great Depression was particularly tough for nonwhite Americans. “The Negro was born in depression,&#; one Black pensioner told interviewer Studs Terkel. &#;It didn’t mean too much to him. The Great American Depression . . . only became official when it hit the white man.” ((Studs Terkel,Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression(New York: Pantheon Books, ), .)) Black workers were generally the last hired when businesses expanded production and the first fired when businesses experienced downturns. As a National Urban League study found, “So general is this practice that one is warranted in suspecting that it has been adopted as a method of relieving unemployment of whites without regard to the consequences upon Negroes.”26 In , with the national unemployment average hovering around 25 percent, Black unemployment reached as high as 50 percent, while even Black workers who kept their jobs saw their already low wages cut dramatically.27

 

On the Great Plains, environmental catastrophe deepened America’s longstanding agricultural crisis and magnified the tragedy of the Depression. Beginning in , severe droughts hit from Texas to the Dakotas and lasted until at least The droughts compounded years of agricultural mismanagement. To grow their crops, Plains farmers had plowed up natural ground cover that had taken ages to form over the surface of the dry Plains states. Relatively wet decades had protected them, but, during the early s, without rain, the exposed fertile topsoil turned to dust, and without sod or windbreaks such as trees, rolling winds churned the dust into massive storms that blotted out the sky, choked settlers and livestock, and rained dirt not only across the region but as far east as Washington, D.C., New England, and ships on the Atlantic Ocean. The Dust Bowl, as the region became known, exposed all-too-late the need for conservation. The region’s farmers, already hit by years of foreclosures and declining commodity prices, were decimated.28 For many in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas who were “baked out, blown out, and broke,” their only hope was to travel west to California, whose rains still brought bountiful harvests and—potentially—jobs for farmworkers. It was an exodus. Oklahoma lost , people, or a full percent of its population, to outmigration.29

This iconic photograph made real the suffering of millions during the Great Depression. Dorothea Lange, “Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California” or “Migrant Mother,” February/March Library of Congress, mynewextsetup.us

This iconic photograph by Dorothea Lange of a destitute, thirty-two-year-old mother of seven made real the suffering of millions during the Great Depression. Library of Congress.

Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother became one of the most enduring images of the Dust Bowl and the ensuing westward exodus. Lange, a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, captured the image at a migrant farmworker camp in Nipomo, California, in In the photograph a young mother stares out with a worried, weary expression. She was a migrant, having left her home in Oklahoma to follow the crops to the Golden State. She took part in what many in the mids were beginning to recognize as a vast migration of families out of the southwestern Plains states. In the image she cradles an infant and supports two older children, who cling to her. Lange’s photo encapsulated the nation’s struggle. The subject of the photograph seemed used to hard work but down on her luck, and uncertain about what the future might hold.

The Okies, as such westward migrants were disparagingly called by their new neighbors, were the most visible group who were on the move during the Depression, lured by news and rumors of jobs in far-flung regions of the country. Men from all over the country, some abandoning families, hitched rides, hopped freight cars, or otherwise made their way around the country. By , sociologists were estimating that millions of men were on the roads and rails traveling the country.30 Popular magazines and newspapers were filled with stories of homeless boys and the veterans-turned-migrants of the Bonus Army commandeering boxcars. Popular culture, such as William Wellman’s film, Wild Boys of the Road, and, most famously, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, published in and turned into a hit movie a year later, captured the Depression’s dislocated populations.

These years witnessed the first significant reversal in the flow of people between rural and urban areas. Thousands of city dwellers fled the jobless cities and moved to the country looking for work. As relief efforts floundered, many state and local officials threw up barriers to migration, making it difficult for newcomers to receive relief or find work. Some state legislatures made it a crime to bring poor migrants into the state and allowed local officials to deport migrants to neighboring states. In the winter of –, California, Florida, and Colorado established “border blockades” to block poor migrants from their states and reduce competition with local residents for jobs. A billboard outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, informed potential migrants that there were “NO JOBS in California” and warned them to “KEEP Out.”31

Photograph of a family traveling by foot down a road. A small child is in a wheel barrow packed with blankets.

During her assignment as a photographer for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Dorothea Lange documented the movement of migrant families forced from their homes by drought and economic depression. This family, captured by Lange in , was in the process of traveling miles by foot, across Oklahoma, because the father was ill and therefore unable to receive relief or WPA work. Library of Congress.

Sympathy for migrants, however, accelerated late in the Depression with the publication of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The Joad family’s struggles drew attention to the plight of Depression-era migrants and, just a month after the nationwide release of the film version, Congress created the Select Committee to Investigate the Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens. Starting in , the committee held widely publicized hearings. But it was too late. Within a year of its founding, defense industries were already gearing up in the wake of the outbreak of World War II, and the “problem” of migration suddenly became a lack of migrants needed to fill war industries. Such relief was nowhere to be found in the s.

Americans meanwhile feared foreign workers willing to work for even lower wages. The Saturday Evening Post warned that foreign immigrants, who were “compelled to accept employment on any terms and conditions offered,” would exacerbate the economic crisis.32 On September 8, , the Hoover administration issued a press release on the administration of immigration laws “under existing conditions of unemployment.” Hoover instructed consular officers to scrutinize carefully the visa applications of those “likely to become public charges” and suggested that this might include denying visas to most, if not all, alien laborers and artisans. The crisis itself had stifled foreign immigration, but such restrictive and exclusionary actions in the first years of the Depression intensified its effects. The number of European visas issued fell roughly 60 percent while deportations dramatically increased. Between and , fifty-four thousand people were deported. An additional forty-four thousand deportable aliens left “voluntarily.&#;33

Exclusionary measures hit Mexican immigrants particularly hard. The State Department made a concerted effort to reduce immigration from Mexico as early as , and Hoover’s executive actions arrived the following year. Officials in the Southwest led a coordinated effort to push out Mexican immigrants. In Los Angeles, the Citizens Committee on Coordination of Unemployment Relief began working closely with federal officials in early to conduct deportation raids, while the Los Angeles County Department of Charities began a simultaneous drive to repatriate Mexicans and Mexican Americans on relief, negotiating a charity rate with the railroads to return Mexicans “voluntarily” to their mother country. According to the federal census, from to the Mexican-born population living in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas fell from , to , Franklin Roosevelt did not indulge anti-immigrant sentiment as willingly as Hoover had. Under the New Deal, the Immigration and Naturalization Service halted some of the Hoover administration’s most divisive practices, but with jobs suddenly scarce, hostile attitudes intensified, and official policies less than welcoming, immigration plummeted and deportations rose. Over the course of the Depression, more people left the United States than entered it.34

Photograph of shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military. The Capitol in the background. Wikimedia, mynewextsetup.us:mynewextsetup.us

Shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military. The Capitol in the background. Wikimedia.

In the summer of , more than fifteen-thousand unemployed veterans and their families converged on Washington, D.C. to petition for a bill authorizing immediate payment of cash bonuses to veterans of World War I that were originally scheduled to be paid out in Given the economic hardships facing the country, the bonus came to symbolize government relief for the most deserving recipients. The veterans in D.C. erected a tent city across the Potomac River in Anacostia Flats, a “Hooverville” in the spirit of the camps of homeless and unemployed Americans then appearing in American cities. Calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, or the Bonus Army, they drilled and marched and demonstrated for their bonuses. &#;While there were billions for bankers, there was nothing for the poor,&#; they complained.

Concerned with what immediate payment would do to the federal budget, Hoover opposed the bill, which was eventually voted down by the Senate. While most of the “Bonus Army” left Washington in defeat, many stayed to press their case. Hoover called the remaining veterans “insurrectionists” and ordered them to leave. When thousands failed to heed the vacation order, General Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by local police, infantry, cavalry, tanks, and a machine gun squadron, stormed the tent city and routed the Bonus Army. Troops chased down men and women, tear-gassed children, and torched the shantytown.35 Two marchers were shot and killed and a baby was killed by tear gas.

The national media reported on the raid, newsreels showed footage, and Americans recoiled at Hoover’s insensitivity toward suffering Americans. His overall unwillingness to address widespread economic problems and his repeated platitudes about returning prosperity condemned his presidency. Hoover of course was not responsible for the Depression, not personally. But neither he nor his advisors conceived of the enormity of the crisis, a crisis his conservative ideology could neither accommodate nor address. Americans had so far found little relief from Washington. But they were still looking for it.

 

This poster shows the kind of work completed by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. The poster shows that 49% of employees worked in the fine arts, 29% in practical arts, 16% in education, and 6% in miscellaneous other tasks.

Posters like this production showing the extent of the Federal Art Project were used to prove the value of the WPA—and, by extension, the entire New Deal—to the American people. Wikimedia.

The early years of the Depression were catastrophic. The crisis, far from relenting, deepened each year. Unemployment peaked at 25 percent in With no end in sight, and with private firms crippled and charities overwhelmed by the crisis, Americans looked to their government as the last barrier against starvation, hopelessness, and perpetual poverty.

Few presidential elections in modern American history have been more consequential than that of The United States was struggling through the third year of the Depression, and exasperated voters overthrew Hoover in a landslide for the Democratic governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt came from a privileged background in New York’s Hudson River Valley (his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, became president while Franklin was at Harvard) and embarked on a slow but steady ascent through state and national politics. In , he was appointed assistant secretary of the navy, a position he held during the defense emergency of World War I. In the course of his rise, in the summer of , Roosevelt suffered a sudden bout of lower-body pain and paralysis. He was diagnosed with polio. The disease left him a paraplegic, but, encouraged and assisted by his wife, Eleanor, Roosevelt sought therapeutic treatment and maintained sufficient political connections to reenter politics. In , Roosevelt won election as governor of New York. He oversaw the rise of the Depression and drew from the tradition of American progressivism to address the economic crisis. He explained to the state assembly in , the crisis demanded a government response &#;not as a matter of charity, but as a matter of social duty.” As governor he established the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), supplying public work jobs at the prevailing wage and in-kind aid—food, shelter, and clothes—to those unable to afford it. Soon the TERA was providing work and relief to ten percent of the state’s families.36 Roosevelt relied on many like-minded advisors. Frances Perkins, for example, the commissioner of the state’s labor department, successfully advocated pioneering legislation that enhanced workplace safety and reduced the use of child labor in factories. Perkins later accompanied Roosevelt to Washington and served as the nation’s first female secretary of labor.37

On July 1, , Roosevelt, the newly designated presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, delivered the first and one of the most famous on-site acceptance speeches in American presidential history. In it, he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” Newspaper editors seized on the phrase “new deal,” and it entered the American political lexicon as shorthand for Roosevelt’s program to address the Great Depression.38

Roosevelt proposed jobs programs, public work projects, higher wages, shorter hours, old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, farm subsidies, banking regulations, and lower tariffs. Hoover warned that such a program represented &#;the total abandonment of every principle upon which this government and the American system is founded.&#; He warned that it reeked of European communism, and that &#;the so called new deals would destroy the very foundations of the American system of life.”39Americans didn&#;t buy it. Roosevelt crushed Hoover in November. He won more counties than any previous candidate in American history. He spent the months between his election and inauguration&#;the twentieth amendment, ratified in , would subsequently the inauguration from March 4 to January 20&#;traveling, planning, and assembling a team of advisors, the famous Brain Trust of academics and experts, to help him formulate a plan of attack. On March 4, , in his first inaugural address, Roosevelt famously declared, “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”40

Roosevelt’s reassuring words would have rung hollow if he had not taken swift action against the economic crisis. In his first days in office, Roosevelt and his advisors prepared, submitted, and secured congressional enactment of numerous laws designed to arrest the worst of the Great Depression. His administration threw the federal government headlong into the fight against the mynewextsetup.uselt immediately looked to stabilize the collapsing banking system. Two out of every five banks open in had been shuttered and some Federal Reserve banks were on the verge of insolvency.41 Roosevelt declared a national “bank holiday” closing American banks and set to work pushing the Emergency Banking Act swiftly through Congress. On March 12, the night before select banks reopened under stricter federal guidelines, Roosevelt appeared on the radio in the first of his Fireside Chats. The addresses, which the president continued delivering through four terms, were informal, even personal. Roosevelt used his airtime to explain New Deal legislation, to encourage confidence in government action, and to mobilize the American people’s support. In the first chat, Roosevelt described the new banking safeguards and asked the public to place their trust and their savings in banks. Americans responded and deposits outpaced withdrawals across the country. The act was a major success. In June, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Banking Act, which instituted a federal deposit insurance system through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and barred the mixing of commercial and investment banking.42

Stabilizing the banks was only a first step. In the remainder of his First Hundred Days, Roosevelt and his congressional allies focused especially on relief for suffering Americans.43 Congress debated, amended, and passed what Roosevelt proposed. As one historian noted, the president “directed the entire operation like a seasoned field general.”44 And despite some questions over the constitutionality of many of his actions, Americans and their congressional representatives conceded that the crisis demanded swift and immediate action. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employed young men on conservation and reforestation projects; the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) provided direct cash assistance to state relief agencies struggling to care for the unemployed;45  the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built a series of hydroelectric dams along the Tennessee River as part of a comprehensive program to economically develop a chronically depressed region;46 and several agencies helped home and farm owners refinance their mortgages. And Roosevelt wasn’t done.

The heart of Roosevelt’s early recovery program consisted of two massive efforts to stabilize and coordinate the American economy: the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) and the National Recovery Administration (NRA). The AAA, created in May , aimed to raise the prices of agricultural commodities (and hence farmers’ income) by offering cash incentives to voluntarily limit farm production (decreasing supply, thereby raising prices).47 The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which created the NRA in June , suspended antitrust laws to allow businesses to establish “codes” that would coordinate prices, regulate production levels, and establish conditions of employment to curtail “cutthroat competition.” In exchange for these exemptions, businesses agreed to provide reasonable wages and hours, end child labor, and allow workers the right to unionize. Participating businesses earned the right to display a placard with the NRA’s Blue Eagle, showing their cooperation in the effort to combat the Great Depression.48

The programs of the First Hundred Days stabilized the American economy and ushered in a robust though imperfect recovery. GDP climbed once more, but even as output increased, unemployment remained stubbornly high. Though the unemployment rate dipped from its high in , when Roosevelt was inaugurated, vast numbers remained out of work. If the economy could not put people back to work, the New Deal would try. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) and, later, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) put unemployed men and women to work on projects designed and proposed by local governments. The Public Works Administration (PWA) provided grants-in-aid to local governments for large infrastructure projects, such as bridges, tunnels, schoolhouses, libraries, and America’s first federal public housing projects. Together, they provided not only tangible projects of immense public good but employment for millions. The New Deal was reshaping much of the nation.49

This poster advertises a meeting for "Working people of Washington Negro and White Student and Intellectuals" to defend the Scottsboro Boys. A photo of the boys and their attorney is included.

The accusation of rape brought against the so-called Scottsboro Boys, pictured with their attorney in , generated controversy across the country. Wikipedia.

The impact of initial New Deal legislation was readily apparent in the South, a region of perpetual poverty especially plagued by the Depression. In the average per capita income in the American Southeast was $, the lowest in the nation. Southern farmers averaged $ per year at a time when farmers on the West Coast made more than four times that.50 Moreover, they were trapped into the production of cotton and corn, crops that depleted the soil and returned ever-diminishing profits. Despite the ceaseless efforts of civic boosters, what little industry the South had remained low-wage, low-skilled, and primarily extractive. Southern workers made significantly less than their national counterparts: 75 percent of nonsouthern textile workers, 60 percent of iron and steel workers, and a paltry 45 percent of lumber workers. At the time of the crash, southerners were already underpaid, underfed, and undereducated.51

Major New Deal programs were designed with the South in mind. FDR hoped that by drastically decreasing the amount of land devoted to cotton, the AAA would arrest its long-plummeting price decline. Farmers plowed up existing crops and left fields fallow, and the market price did rise. But in an agricultural world of landowners and landless farmworkers (such as tenants and sharecroppers), the benefits of the AAA bypassed the southerners who needed them most. The government relied on landowners and local organizations to distribute money fairly to those most affected by production limits, but many owners simply kicked tenants and croppers off their land, kept the subsidy checks for keeping those acres fallow, and reinvested the profits in mechanical farming equipment that further suppressed the demand for labor. Instead of making farming profitable again, the AAA pushed landless southern farmworkers off the land.52

But Roosevelt’s assault on southern poverty took many forms. Southern industrial practices attracted much attention. The NRA encouraged higher wages and better conditions. It began to suppress the rampant use of child labor in southern mills and, for the first time, provided federal protection for unionized workers all across the country. Those gains were eventually solidified in the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set a national minimum wage of $/hour (eventually rising to $/hour). The minimum wage disproportionately affected low-paid southern workers and brought southern wages within the reach of northern wages.53

The president’s support for unionization further impacted the South. Southern industrialists had proven themselves ardent foes of unionization, particularly in the infamous southern textile mills. In , when workers at textile mills across the southern Piedmont struck over low wages and long hours, owners turned to local and state authorities to quash workers’ groups, even as they recruited thousands of strikebreakers from the many displaced farmers swelling industrial centers looking for work. But in the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, guaranteed the rights of most workers to unionize and bargain collectively. And so unionized workers, backed by the support of the federal government and determined to enforce the reforms of the New Deal, pushed for higher wages, shorter hours, and better conditions. With growing success, union members came to see Roosevelt as a protector of workers’ rights. Or, as one union leader put it, an “agent of God.”54

Perhaps the most successful New Deal program in the South was the TVA, an ambitious program to use hydroelectric power, agricultural and industrial reform, flood control, economic development, education, and healthcare to radically remake the impoverished watershed region of the Tennessee River. Though the area of focus was limited, Roosevelt’s TVA sought to “make a different type of citizen” out of the area’s penniless residents.55 The TVA built a series of hydroelectric dams to control flooding and distribute electricity to the otherwise nonelectrified areas at government-subsidized rates. Agents of the TVA met with residents and offered training and general education classes to improve agricultural practices and exploit new job opportunities. The TVA encapsulates Roosevelt’s vision for uplifting the South and integrating it into the larger national economy.56

Roosevelt initially courted conservative southern Democrats to ensure the legislative success of the New Deal, all but guaranteeing that the racial and economic inequalities of the region remained intact, but by the end of his second term, he had won the support of enough non-southern voters that he felt confident confronting some of the region’s most glaring inequalities. Nowhere was this more apparent than in his endorsement of a report, formulated by a group of progressive southern New Dealers, titled “A Report on Economic Conditions in the South.” The pamphlet denounced the hardships wrought by the southern economy—in his introductory letter to the report, Roosevelt called the region “the Nation’s No. 1 economic problem”—and blasted reactionary southern anti–New Dealers. He suggested that the New Deal could save the South and thereby spur a nationwide recovery. The report was among the first broadsides in Roosevelt’s coming reelection campaign that addressed the inequalities that continued to mark southern and national life.57

 

A photograph of Huey Long giving a speech. Also an inset image of a button that says "Share Our Wealth Society Every Man a King"

Huey Long was an indomitable force who campaigned tirelessly for the common man during the Great Depression. He demanded that Americans “Share the Wealth.” Wikimedia.

Despite the unprecedented actions taken in his first year in office, Roosevelt’s initial relief programs could often be quite conservative. He had usually been careful to work within the bounds of presidential authority and congressional cooperation. And, unlike Europe, where several nations had turned toward state-run economies, and even fascism and socialism, Roosevelt’s New Deal demonstrated a clear reluctance to radically tinker with the nation’s foundational economic and social structures. Many high-profile critics attacked Roosevelt for not going far enough, and, beginning in , Roosevelt and his advisors were forced to respond.

Senator Huey Long, a flamboyant Democrat from Louisiana, was perhaps the most important “voice of protest.” Long’s populist rhetoric appealed to those who saw deeply rooted but easily addressed injustice in the nation’s economic system. Long proposed a Share Our Wealth program in which the federal government would confiscate the assets of the extremely wealthy and redistribute them to the less well-off through guaranteed minimum incomes. “How many men ever went to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what’s intended for nine-tenths of the people to eat?” he asked. Over twenty-seven thousand Share the Wealth clubs sprang up across the nation as Long traveled the country explaining his program to crowds of impoverished and unemployed Americans. Long envisioned the movement as a stepping-stone to the presidency, but his crusade ended in late when he was assassinated on the floor of the Louisiana state capitol. Even in death, however, Long convinced Roosevelt to more stridently attack the Depression and American inequality.

But Huey Long was not alone in his critique of Roosevelt. Francis Townsend, a former doctor and public health official from California, promoted a plan for old-age pensions which, he argued, would provide economic security for the elderly (who disproportionately suffered poverty) and encourage recovery by allowing older workers to retire from the workforce. Reverend Charles Coughlin, meanwhile, a priest and radio personality from the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, gained a following by making vitriolic, anti-Semitic attacks on Roosevelt for cooperating with banks and financiers and proposing a new system of “social justice” through a more state-driven economy instead. Like Long, both Townsend and Coughlin built substantial public followings.

If many Americans urged Roosevelt to go further in addressing the economic crisis, the president faced even greater opposition from conservative politicians and business leaders. By late , complaints increased from business-friendly Republicans about Roosevelt’s willingness to regulate industry and use federal spending for public works and employment programs. In the South, Democrats who had originally supported the president grew more hostile toward programs that challenged the region’s political, economic, and social status quo. Yet the greatest opposition came from the Supreme Court, filled with conservative appointments made during the long years of Republican presidents.

By early the Court was reviewing programs of the New Deal. On May 27, a day Roosevelt’s supporters called Black Monday, the justices struck down one of the president’s signature reforms: in a case revolving around poultry processing, the Court unanimously declared the NRA unconstitutional. In early , the AAA fell.58

 

The New Deal enjoyed broad popularity. Democrats gained seats in the midterm elections, securing massive majorities in both the House and Senate. Bolstered by these gains, facing reelection in , and confronting rising opposition from both the left and the right, Roosevelt rededicated himself to bold programs and more aggressive approaches, a set of legislation often termed the Second New Deal. In included a nearly five-billion dollar appropriation that in established the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a permanent version of the CWA, which  would ultimately employ millions of Americans on public works projects. It would employ “the maximum number of persons in the shortest time possible,” Roosevelt said.59 Americans employed by the WPA paved more than half-a-million miles of roads, constructed thousands of bridges, built schools and post offices, and even painted murals and recorded oral histories. Not only did the program build much of America&#;s physical infrastructure, it came closer than any New Deal program to providing the federal jobs guarantee Roosevelt had promised in

Also in , hoping to reconstitute some of the protections afforded workers in the now-defunct NRA, Roosevelt worked with Congress to pass the National Labor Relations Act (known as the Wagner Act for its chief sponsor, New York senator Robert Wagner), offering federal legal protection, for the first time, for workers to organize unions. The labor protections extended by Roosevelt’s New Deal were revolutionary. In northern industrial cities, workers responded to worsening conditions by banding together and demanding support for workers’ rights. In , the head of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, took the lead in forming a new national workers’ organization, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), breaking with the more conservative, craft-oriented AFL. The CIO won a major victory in when affiliated members in the United Automobile Workers (UAW) struck for recognition and better pay and hours at a General Motors (GM) plant in Flint, Michigan. Launching a “sit-down” strike, the workers remained in the building until management agreed to negotiate. GM recognized the UAW and granted a pay increase. GM&#;s recognition gave the UAW new legitimacy and unionization spread rapidly across the auto industry. Across the country, unions and workers took advantage of the New Deal’s protections to organize and win major concessions from employers. Three years after the NLRA, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, creating the modern minimum wage. 

Photograph of striking workers guarding the entrance to a factory.

Unionization was met with fierce opposition from owners and managers, particularly in the manufacturing belt of the Mid-West. In this image, strikers guard the entrance to a Flint, Michigan, manufacturing plant. Library of Congress.

The Second New Deal also oversaw the restoration of a highly progressive federal income tax, mandated new reporting requirements for publicly traded companies, refinanced long-term home mortgages for struggling homeowners, and attempted rural reconstruction projects to bring farm incomes in line with urban ones.60 Perhaps the signature piece of Roosevelt’s Second New Deal, however, was the Social Security Act. It provided for old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, and economic aid, based on means, to assist both the elderly and dependent children. The president was careful to mitigate some of the criticism from what was, at the time, in the American context, a revolutionary concept. He specifically insisted that social security be financed from payroll, not the federal government; “No dole,” Roosevelt said repeatedly, “mustn’t have a dole.”61 He thereby helped separate social security from the stigma of being an undeserved “welfare” entitlement. While such a strategy saved the program from suspicions, social security became the centerpiece of the modern American social welfare state. It was the culmination of a long progressive push for government-sponsored social welfare, an answer to the calls of Roosevelt’s opponents on the Left for reform, a response to the intractable poverty among America’s neediest groups, and a recognition that the government would now assume some responsibility for the economic well-being of its citizens. ((W. Andrew Achenbaum, Old Age in the New Land (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, ); Edwin E. Witte, The Development of the Social Security Act (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, ).)) Nevertheless, the act excluded large swaths of the American population. Its pension program excluded domestic workers and farm workers, for instance, a policy that disproportionately affected African Americans. Roosevelt recognized that social security&#;s programs would need expansion and improvement. “This law,&#; he said, &#;represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.”62

 

Black Americans faced discrimination everywhere but suffered especially severe legal inequality in the Jim Crow South. In , for instance, a group of nine young men riding the rails between Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee, were pulled from the train near Scottsboro, Alabama, and charged with assaulting two white women. Despite clear evidence that the assault had not occurred, and despite one of the women later recanting, the young men endured a series of sham trials in which all but one were sentenced to death. Only the communist-oriented International Legal Defense (ILD) came to the aid of the “Scottsboro Boys,” who soon became a national symbol of continuing racial prejudice in America and a rallying point for civil rights–minded Americans. In appeals, the ILD successfully challenged the boys’ sentencing, and the death sentences were either commuted or reversed, although the last of the accused did not receive parole until 63

Despite a concerted effort to appoint Black advisors to some New Deal programs, Franklin Roosevelt did little to specifically address the particular difficulties Black communities faced. To do so openly would provoke southern Democrats and put his New Deal coalition—–the uneasy alliance of national liberals, urban laborers, farm workers, and southern whites—at risk. Roosevelt not only rejected such proposals as abolishing the poll tax and declaring lynching a federal crime, he refused to specifically target African American needs in any of his larger relief and reform packages. As he explained to the national secretary of the NAACP, “I just can’t take that risk.”64

In fact, many of the programs of the New Deal had made hard times more difficult. When the codes of the NRA set new pay scales, they usually took into account regional differentiation and historical data. In the South, where African Americans had long suffered unequal pay, the new codes simply perpetuated that inequality. The codes also exempted those involved in farm work and domestic labor, the occupations of a majority of southern Black men and women. The AAA was equally problematic as owners displaced Black tenants and sharecroppers, many of whom were forced to return to their farms as low-paid day labor or to migrate to cities looking for wage work.65

Perhaps the most notorious failure of the New Deal to aid African Americans came with the passage of the Social Security Act. Southern politicians chafed at the prospect of African Americans benefiting from federally sponsored social welfare, afraid that economic security would allow Black southerners to escape the cycle of poverty that kept them tied to the land as cheap, exploitable farm laborers. The Jackson (Mississippi) Daily News callously warned that “The average Mississippian can’t imagine himself chipping in to pay pensions for able-bodied Negroes to sit around in idleness . . . while cotton and corn crops are crying for workers.” Roosevelt agreed to remove domestic workers and farm laborers from the provisions of the bill, excluding many African Americans, already laboring under the strictures of legal racial discrimination, from the benefits of an expanding economic safety net.66

Women, too, failed to receive the full benefits of New Deal programs. On one hand, Roosevelt included women in key positions within his administration, including the first female cabinet secretary, Frances Perkins, and a prominently placed African American advisor in the National Youth Administration, Mary McLeod Bethune. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a key advisor to the president and became a major voice for economic and racial justice. But many New Deal programs were built on the assumption that men would serve as breadwinners and women as mothers, homemakers, and consumers. New Deal programs aimed to help both but usually by forcing such gendered assumptions, making it difficult for women to attain economic autonomy. New Deal social welfare programs tended to funnel women into means-tested, state-administered relief programs while reserving entitlement benefits for male workers, creating a kind of two-tiered social welfare state. And so, despite great advances, the New Deal failed to challenge core inequalities that continued to mark life in the United States.67

 

By , Roosevelt and his New Deal won record popularity. In November, Roosevelt annihilated his Republican challenger, Governor Alf Landon of Kansas, who lost in every state save Maine and Vermont. The Great Depression had certainly not ended, but it appeared to be retreating, and Roosevelt, now safely reelected, appeared ready to take advantage of both his popularity and the improving economic climate to press for even more dramatic changes. But conservative barriers continued to limit the power of his popular support. The Supreme Court, for instance, continued to gut many of his programs.

In , concerned that the Court might overthrow social security in an upcoming case, Roosevelt called for legislation allowing him to expand the Court by appointing a new, younger justice for every sitting member over age seventy. Roosevelt argued that the measure would speed up the Court’s ability to handle a growing backlog of cases; however, his “court-packing scheme,” as opponents termed it, was clearly designed to allow the president to appoint up to six friendly, pro–New Deal justices to drown the influence of old-time conservatives on the Court. Roosevelt’s “scheme” riled opposition and did not become law, but the chastened Court thereafter upheld social security and other pieces of New Deal legislation. Moreover, Roosevelt was slowly able to appoint more amenable justices as conservatives died or retired. Still, the court-packing scheme damaged the Roosevelt administration emboldened New Deal opponents68

Compounding his problems, Roosevelt and his advisors made a costly economic misstep. Believing the United States had turned a corner, Roosevelt cut spending in The American economy plunged nearly to the depths of – Roosevelt reversed course and, adopting the approach popularized by the English economist John Maynard Keynes, hoped that countercyclical, compensatory spending would pull the country out of the recession, even at the expense of a growing budget deficit. It was perhaps too late. The Roosevelt Recession of became fodder for critics. Combined with the court-packing scheme, the recession allowed for significant gains by a conservative coalition of southern Democrats and Midwestern Republicans in the midterm elections. By , Roosevelt struggled to build congressional support for new reforms, let alone maintain existing agencies. Moreover, the growing threat of war in Europe stole the public’s attention and increasingly dominated Roosevelt’s interests. The New Deal slowly receded into the background, outshined by war.69

 

By the end of the s, Roosevelt and his Democratic Congresses had presided over a transformation of the American government and a realignment in American party politics. Before World War I, the American national state, though powerful, had been a “government out of sight.” After the New Deal, Americans came to see the federal government as a potential ally in their daily struggles, whether finding work, securing a decent wage, getting a fair price for agricultural products, or organizing a union. Voter turnout in presidential elections jumped in and again in , with most of these newly mobilized voters forming a durable piece of the Democratic Party that would remain loyal well into the s. Even as affluence returned with the American intervention in World War II, memories of the Depression continued to shape the outlook of two generations of Americans.70 Survivors of the Great Depression, one man would recall in the late s, “are still riding with the ghost—the ghost of those days when things came hard.”71

Historians debate when the New Deal ended. Some identify the Fair Labor Standards Act of as the last major New Deal measure. Others see wartime measures such as price and rent control and the G.I. Bill (which afforded New Deal–style social benefits to veterans) as species of New Deal legislation. Still others conceive of a “New Deal order,” a constellation of “ideas, public policies, and political alliances,” which, though changing, guided American politics from Roosevelt’s Hundred Days forward to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society—and perhaps even beyond. Indeed, the New Deal’s legacy still remains, and its battle lines still shape American politics.

 

1. Herbert Hoover on the New Deal ()

Americans elected a string of conservative Republicans to the presidency during the boom years of the s. When the economy crashed in , however, and the nation descended deeper into the Great Depression, voters abandoned the Republican Party and conservative politicians struggled to in office. In this speech on the eve of the election, Herbert Hoover warned against Franklin Roosevelt’s proposed New Deal.

2. Huey P. Long, “Every Man a King” and “Share our Wealth” ()

Amid the economic indignities of the Great Depression, Huey P. Long of Louisiana championed an aggressive program of public spending and wealth redistribution. Critics denounced Long, who served as both governor and a senator from Louisiana, as a corrupt demagogue, but “the Kingfish” appealed to impoverished Louisianans and Americans wracked by joblessness and resentful of American economic inequality. He was assassinated before he could mount his independent bid for the White House in In the following extracts from two of his most famous speeches, Long outlines his political program.

3. Franklin Roosevelt’s Re-Nomination Acceptance Speech ()

In July 27, , President Franklin Roosevelt accepted his re-nomination as the Democratic Party’s presidential choice. In his acceptance speech, Roosevelt laid out his understanding of what “freedom” and “tyranny” meant in an industrial democracy.

4. Second Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt ()

After winning a landslide victory in his quest for a second presidential term, President Franklin Roosevelt championed again the ambitious goals of his New Deal economic programs and their relationship to American democracy.

5. Lester Hunter, “I’d Rather Not Be on Relief” ()

Lester Hunter left the Dust Bowl for the fields of California and wrote this poem, later turned into a song by migrant workers in California’s Farm Security Administration camps. The “C.I.O.” in the final line refers to the Congress of Industrial Unions, a powerful new industrial union founded in

6. Bertha McCall on America’s “Moving People” ()

Bertha McCall, general director of the National Travelers Aid Association, acquired a special knowledge of the massive displacement of individuals and families during the Great Depression. In , McCall testified before the House of Representatives’ Select Committee to Investigate the Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens on the nature of America’s internal migrants.

7. Dorothy West, “Amateur Night in Harlem” ()

Amateur night at the Apollo Theater attracted not only Harlem’s African American population but a national radio audience. In this account, written through the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project, Dorothy West describes an amateur night at the theater in November and reflects on the relationship between entertainment, race, and American life.

8. Family Walking on Highway ()

During her assignment as a photographer for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Dorothea Lange documented the movement of migrant families forced from their homes by drought and economic depression. This family was in the process of traveling miles by foot, across Oklahoma, because the father was unable to receive relief or WPA work of his own due to an illness.

9. “Bonus Army Routed” ()

This short newsreel clip made by British film company Pathé shows the federal government’s response to the thousands of WWI veterans who organized in Washington DC during the summer of to form what was called a “Bonus Army.” At the demand of attorney general, the marchers were violently removed from government property.

This chapter was edited by Matthew Downs and Eric Rauchway, with content contributed by Dana Cochran, Matthew Downs, Benjamin Helwege, Elisa Minoff, Eric Rauchway, Caitlin Verboon, and Mason Williams.

Recommended citation: Dana Cochran et al., “The Great Depression,” Matthew Downs, ed., in The American Yawp, eds. Joseph Locke and Ben Wright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, ).

 

Recommended Reading

  1. Balderrama, Francisco E., and Raymond Rodríguez. Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the s, rev. ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press,
  2. Brinkley, Alan. The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War. New York: Knopf,
  3. ———. Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression. New York: Knopf,
  4. Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, – New York: Cambridge University Press,
  5. Cowie, Jefferson, and Nick Salvatore. “The Long Exception: Rethinking the Place of the New Deal in American History.” International Labor and Working-Class History 74 (Fall ): 1–
  6. Dickstein, Morris. Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression. New York: Norton,
  7. Fraser, Steve, and Gary Gerstle, eds. The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, – Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
  8. Gilmore, Glenda E. Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, – New York: Norton,
  9. Gordon, Colin. New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics in America – New York: Cambridge University Press,
  10. Gordon, Linda. Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits. New York: Norton,
  11. ———. Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare – New York: Free Press,
  12. Greene, Alison Collis. No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta. New York: Oxford University Press,
  13. Katznelson, Ira. Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time. New York: Norton,
  14. Kelly, Robin D. G. Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
  15. Kennedy, David. Freedom from Fear: America in Depression and War, – New York: Oxford University Press,
  16. Kessler-Harris, Alice. In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press,
  17. Leach, William. Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture. New York: Pantheon Books,
  18. Leuchtenburg, William. Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, – New York: Harper and Row,
  19. Pells, Richard. Radical Visions and American Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years. New York: Harper and Row,
  20. Phillips, Kimberly L. Alabama North: African-American Migrants, Community and Working-Class Activism in Cleveland, Champaign: University of Illinois Press,
  21. Phillips–Fein, Kim. Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal. New York: Norton,
  22. Sitkoff, Harvard. A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue. New York: Oxford University Press,
  23. Sullivan, Patricia. Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
  24. Tani, Karen. States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, – Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press,
  25. Wright, Gavin. Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy Since the Civil War. Baton Rouge: LSU Press,

Notes

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  • Ability to use independent judgment and discretion in various situations while maintaining a high degree of confidentiality.

Please email resume to:
 Human Resources, Great Midwest Bank, W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield, WI   
[email protected]

WE ARE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER Minority/Female/Veteran/Disabled

CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE OPPORTUNITY

Great Midwest Bank has an opening for a dependable, customer service oriented individual to fill a Part Time Customer Service Representative position at our Hartland, WI Office.

If you consider yourself to be a flexible individual, enjoy working with people, and possess prior customer service experience, and/ or frontline banking, Great Midwest Bank may have a position for you as a Customer Service Representative.  We are currently looking for a Part Time customer-service orientated individual to join our team to work as a frontline Customer Service Representative assisting customers with their banking transactions in our Hartland, WI Branch location. 

To qualify for this position, you must have:  

  • Previous banking experience, customer service, and/or cash handling required. Prior banking experience is preferred.
  • Possess good computer skills and knowledge of basic Windows, Word and Excel.
  • Have a strong ability to multi-task, be very detail oriented, and be a strong team player.
  • Excellent internal and external customer service, interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Ability to identify and meet our customer service needs.
  • Proven abilities of accuracy and attention to detail.
  • Ability to maintain strict confidentiality.
  • Exhibits an understanding of and compliance with applicable federal and state banking laws and regulations or obtain the ability to acquire.

Approximately hours per week

  • Work several Weekday Afternoons – Primarily would work pm – Schedule may vary
  • Work Thursdays p
  • Work up to 3 Saturdays a month 9ap

Please email resume to:
 Human Resources, Great Midwest Bank, W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield, WI   
[email protected]


WE ARE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER Minority/Female/Veteran/Disabled



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First federal bank of the midwest jobs -

May Go Down in Value
Investment products and services provided by Arvest Investments, Inc., doing business as Arvest Wealth Management, member FINRA/SIPC, an SEC registered investment adviser and a subsidiary of Arvest Bank. Securities offered and cleared through Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company, member NYSE/SIPC. Insurance products made available through Arvest Insurance, Inc., which is registered as an insurance agency. Insurance products are marketed through Arvest Insurance, Inc., but are underwritten by unaffiliated insurance companies.
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Create Jobs for USA

Overview

In November , OFN partnered with Starbucks to launch Create Jobs for USA, a unique initiative that leveraged the power of CDFIs to address the U.S. jobs crisis and help put people back to work. The initiative combined corporate donations and crowdfunding from individuals and small businesses to create and retain jobs. Banana Republic, Google Offers, Citi, MasterCard, and other companies also joined the effort.

Create Jobs for USA ran through December In three years, it raised more than $ million in donations, which participating CDFIs turned into $ million in financing for businesses to create or retain more than 5, jobs.

OFN has gathered lessons learned from the initiative to share in a series of reports that reflects on Create Jobs for USA and offers insights that CDFIs can use in their own job reporting efforts. Read the first two reports now.

How it Started

In , Howard Schultz, chief executive officer of Starbucks Coffee Company, was eager to find a creative, inclusive, and swift way to address the country’s unemployment crisis. But he needed a partner with a proven reputation for excellence and a history of creating jobs to join in the effort.

Starbucks teamed up with OFN, the leading network of CDFIs, community development financial institutions that lend and invest in economically distressed places in the U.S.

In November Starbucks and OFN formed a partnership to launch Create Jobs for USA, a philanthropic initiative to mobilize individuals, CDFIs, and corporations to address the troubling rise in unemployment that followed the Great Recession.

How it Worked

Create Jobs for USA combined corporate donations and crowdfunding to establish the Create Jobs for USA Fund. OFN managed the Fund and used the donations to award capital grants to high-performing CDFIs across the country.

These CDFIs leveraged their Create Jobs for USA awards with additional loans from traditional banks, foundations, and other investors to make loans to community businesses. All of the donations went directly to loans for community businesses, and none were used for operating expenses.

In three years, Create Jobs for USA raised more than $ million in donations.

Every $1 raised through the Create Jobs for USA Fund supported $7 in loans to small businesses, microenterprises, nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate developers, and housing developers.

The Impact it Had

CDFIs leveraged $ million in donations into $ million in lending to community businesses, which created or retained more than 5, jobs.

Where Donations Originated

Create Jobs for USA raised a total of $ million from a diverse range of donors, including corporations, foundations, small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals.

The Starbucks Foundation seeded the Create Jobs for USA Fund with a $5 million donation. Major corporate supporters also included Google Offers, Banana Republic, and Citi, who each raised $1 million or more for the Fund. In addition, the Schultz Family Foundation donated $1 million on the first anniversary of the Create Jobs for USA initiative. Other corporations, small business, and nonprofits raised more than $, for the Fund.

Indivisible Bracelet, Coffee, Mug and Tumbler

Individual donations totaled $ million, the large majority of which was raised through the "Indivisible" wristbands program. Anyone who donated $5 online or at one of Starbucks' 7, retail locations received an all American made "Indivisible" wristband, of which % of the donation went to Create Jobs for USA. The program offered individuals and corporations a way of showing their support, with more than , people receiving wristbands through individual and corporate contributions.

Starbucks also generated an additional $1 million for the Create Jobs for USA Fund by launching an "Indivisible" line of products—coffee, mugs, tumblers—sold in their retail locations through early For every purchase of an "Indivisible" product, Starbucks made a donation to the Fund.

Types of Businesses Supported

Create Jobs for USA funds supported community businesses, which create and retain jobs in low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged communities. These include small businesses, microenterprises, nonprofit organizations (such as charter schools, day care, and senior centers), commercial real estate, and affordable housing.

Take a look at some of the Create Jobs for USA videos and success stories to read about the different businesses the initiative has supported in urban, rural, and native communities across the U.S.

Lessons Learned

OFN is publishing a series of publications to report on the results and lessons learned from the initiative. The reports focus on the overall lessons learned about Create Jobs for USA, as well as specific lessons learned and best practices related to collecting, tracking, and analyzing data on job creation and retention.

Find a Loan

Community businesses seeking a loan can refer to the list of Awardees and OFN's CDFI Locator to identify a local CDFI that may be able help.

These supporters have stood up and said they believe in Americans and want to help them get back to work. Read about their commitments to the program below.

Founding Members

Starbucks LogoStarbucks: Starbucks and the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) teamed up to launch the Create Jobs for USA Fund on Nov. 1, The Starbucks Foundation seeded the Fund with a $5 million donation and helped distribute red, white, and blue Indivisible wristbands to donors who contributed $5 or more.
OFN LogoOpportunity Finance Network: Opportunity Finance Network is a national network of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) investing in opportunities that benefit low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged communities across America.

Headline Supporters ($1MM+ Donations)

Banana Republic LogoBanana Republic: Banana Republic was one of the first partners to join OFN and Starbucks to support the Create Jobs for USA Fund. Special shopping events raised $1 million in
Citi LogoCiti: Citi Community Development and the Citi Foundation reinforced their support for community businesses by making a $1 million contribution to Create Jobs for USA Fund, and by empowering Citi ThankYou® Members to redeem their rewards points to make a donation to the program.
Google Offers LogoGoogle Offers: Google Offers™ teamed up with Starbucks to raise $ million to help create and sustain jobs in America.

Gold Contributor ($, - $,)

MasterCard LogoMasterCard: MasterCard is always looking for ways to make an even greater impact in their communities. That's why they joined the Create Jobs for USA program with a $, donation to help create and retain jobs in communities across America.

Silver Contributor ($25, - $,)

Bronze Contributors ($5 - $24,)

All of Us LogoAll of Us: More than , individuals and small businesses have donated to the Create Jobs for USA Fund and received an Indivisible wristband to show their support for creating and retaining jobs in the U.S.

ReportS

OFN is publishing a series of reports to provide an overview of results as well as lessons learned from the initiative. By publishing this series, we hope to demonstrate the successful collaboration of many partners, and how community lenders are contributing to solving the jobs crisis in the U.S. by creating and retaining jobs in underserved urban, rural, and native communities.

"Six Lessons Learned from Create Jobs for USA,” published in May provides an overview of results of Create Jobs for USA, a successful initiative launched in November by Starbucks and Opportunity Finance Network to help address the jobs crisis. The first in a series of three reports about Create Jobs for USA, this publication shares the lessons learned from the initiative.

CDFI Practices in Jobs Data Collection and Tracking:  Lessons Learned from Create Jobs for USA” published in October looks at the data collection efforts behind Create Jobs for USA, sharing what we learned, best practices, and sample CDFI data collection forms and processes. The goal of the paper is to help improve the quality of jobs data collected by the opportunity finance industry.

We’d like to thank Member CDFIs who participated in this initiative and helped make it a success. We appreciate your participation: your work to create and retain jobs and to tell the story of CDFIs and the community businesses they serve gave meaning to the effort and helped create or retain more than 5, American jobs. We’re also grateful for the strong corporate leadership of Starbucks, without whose vision, leadership, and support this initiative would not have been possible.

Success Stories

Create Jobs for USA helped generate thousands of jobs in communities across the country. Below is a selection of success stories.

This loan and supermarket opening created full-time jobs, four part-time jobs, and 40 construction jobs, with approximately 25% of all jobs held by local residents.

City Heights, San Diego has a high concentration of lower-income businesses and households, and is home to an ethnically-diverse population. Thanks to a loan from the California FreshWorks Fund (CFWF), managed by NCB Capital Impact, the , residents of City Heights now have better access to fresh and healthy foods near their homes. NCB Capital Impact disbursed $ million for the development of a new 42, square foot, full-service Northgate Gonzalez Market.

Northgate Gonzalez Market is a family-owned chain of supermarkets that was started by the Gonzalez family in The family currently operates 33 stores located in the southern California counties of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego. Northgate’s markets are full service supermarkets, focused on serving predominately Latino communities. This loan and supermarket opening created full-time jobs, four part-time jobs, and 40 construction jobs, with approximately 25% of all jobs held by local residents.

With this expansion, Haynes will be able to serve additional students in 10thth grades.

In , TRF provided a $ million loan to E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, DC, to fund the expansion of their campus to include a high school. Haynes currently serves a diverse student body (52% Black, 28% Hispanic, 18% White, and 2% Asian) of more than students in grades Pre-K through 9th, more than 60% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. With this expansion, Haynes will be able to serve additional students in 10thth grades.

The project has created 75 construction jobs, and once the addition is completed, the school will create 42 new full-time jobs and 20 part-time jobs ranging from teaching positions, to custodians, to administrative staff.

David was able to lease an industrial warehouse in Missoula and transform it into a thriving business that provides children and families throughout the community a safe space in which to learn and practice. The larger space also allowed David to open a movement-based preschool, expanding the options for education in Missoula.

Dedication. Persistence. Teamwork. David Stark teaches these qualities every day at Bitterroot Gymnastics. He bought the business in after years of learning the ropes—first as a student and then as an employee. By the time he became the owner, he knew just how to realize the gym’s potential. By applying his strong teaching principles and a well-thought-out business strategy, he was quickly able to reduce costs, improve service, and grow the gym into a successful enterprise. In fact, he grew the business so well that he was soon in need of a much larger and more costly space. But David couldn’t find the money to finance the new gym. Solid profits, great income potential, and a steady customer base weren’t enough to overcome the lack of strong collateral and guarantees needed to qualify for traditional financing. Still, David kept knocking on doors. When he went to Montana CDC, his timing was excellent. The CDFI had just introduced a new lending product, which allows strong businesses and entrepreneurs who show the potential for success to borrow money with little or no collateral. Due to the loan from Montana CDC, David was able to lease an industrial warehouse in Missoula and transform it into a thriving business that provides children and families throughout the community a safe space in which to learn and practice. The larger space also allowed David to open a movement-based preschool, expanding the options for education in Missoula. Additionally, by opening the new facility, David created four new jobs—the gym hired one full-time preschool instructor, and three part-time gym instructors.

The recent global recession has left the city with high unemployment (at %, it is double the statewide level) and one of the lowest median incomes in the state.

Lawrence CommunityWorks (LCW) is a nonprofit community development corporation working to transform and revitalize the physical, economic, and social landscape of Lawrence, MA. Like many post-industrial cities in America, Lawrence has struggled for some time to re-invent itself for the 21st century. The recent global recession has left the city with high unemployment (at %, it is double the statewide level) and one of the lowest median incomes in the state. However, LCW has embarked on a major community revitalization project with Union Crossing.

The Union Crossing project is being built on the site of a former foundry and cotton mill on the riverfront. It is a , sq. ft. building on acres, and is being converted into new environmentally sustainable housing units and commercial/retail space. An anchor tenant will be the Lawrence CommunityWorks Financial Stability Center, a project supported by the United Way, which focuses on economic empowerment to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty. By bundling housing and financial opportunities under one roof, Union Crossing Financial Stability Center follows similarly successful models that remove obstacles for families in need while offering an integrated, one-stop service delivery methods of community revitalization.

Phase 1 of the project has just completed, and comprises 60 affordable, energy-efficient housing units subsidized under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. Boston Community Capital provided a $, construction bridge loan for the envelope to the building’s retail space, which ensured the building could receive its Certificate of Occupancy in time for the official launch of the housing on December 13, The next phase of the project, which Boston Community Capital expects to finance, includes commercial business space being built under the New Market Tax Credit program. The project is expected to bring construction jobs, and the commercial space over new permanent jobs.

The loan led to the creation of eight apartments for people with a household income less than 80% of area median income and the creation of 16 full-time jobs for people in the community.

Moses G. Parker is a former Bethlehem Steel worker whose grandmother inspired his interest in real estate development. “They won’t be making any more land,” she said, “so you’d best invest in it.” And that’s exactly what Moses Parker did. In , he started buying and rehabbing single-family properties for low- and moderate-income people. Twenty-seven years later, Parker is still in business, owning and managing the properties he has developed.

In , Parker purchased his first commercial property, a three-story building that he wanted transform into eight, low-income residential apartments. Located in the national historic residential neighborhood of Reservoir Hill, the property had been vacant for several years and needed major repair, as well as preservation of its late 19th century architectural features. Parker sought to finance this work through traditional financial institutions but traditional banks turned him down. A word-of-mouth referral brought Moses to Baltimore Community Lending, which provided him a $, loan to rehab this property. The loan led to the creation of eight apartments for people with a household income less than 80% of area median income and the creation of 16 full-time jobs for people in the community.

When asked about the most beneficial aspects of his work, Parker responded, “I like to create housing that I would live in—livable housing that is affordable. I like providing jobs, too, and this project will do that.”

With the expansion, the clinic was able to increase its capacity from 6, to 12, patients, many of whom had to travel long distances to access care. The expansion also allowed the health center to create 10 full-time jobs.

The Lakes Community Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Care Center (FQHC) that serves four rural counties in northwestern Wisconsin with clinics in high poverty areas in Iron River and in Ashland. The majority of the health center’s patients are low-income and more than half are children. In , The Lakes received a grant to build an addition to its Iron River location, but outgrew the space in less than two years because of the increasing demand for service. In March of , IFF made a $, loan to the organization to double the clinic’s size, and it also provided a $50, loan for medical equipment. With the expansion, the clinic was able to increase its capacity from 6, to 12, patients, many of whom had to travel long distances to access care. The expansion also allowed the health center to create 10 new, professional, full-time jobs, including positions for medical providers, clinical staff, and administrative support staff.

"Community Capital of Vermont was able to come through with funding for my loan when conventional methods of borrowing were not an option for me. They helped me realize a dream that I have had for years.”

Cynthia Duprey always wanted to own a bookstore. But when her family home flooded in May , she put her dream on hold. The flood not only displaced Cynthia and her family, but also damaged her credit. As she started to rebuild her life (she closed on a home in January, ) she also approached Community Capital of Vermont for a loan to open her dream bookstore. This local CDFI provided Cynthia a $40, loan because of her deep roots in the community and to help promote retail in a struggling downtown district. Cynthia will soon open Next Chapter bookstore on Main Street in Barre, Vermont, and the opening will allow her to realize her dream, help revitalize a struggling downtown area, and create two full-time jobs in the community.

When local banks said no to providing Clyde a loan, a CDFI—and Create Jobs for USA capital grant Awardee—The Progress Fund, said yes, and gave him the $, loan he needed to increase production, providing jobs and hope for the small town.

Clyde McClellan, owner of American Mug and Stein, has one of the last standing pottery companies in the area, and its sales have been suffering due to the recession. It was just getting by, handling small orders with a very small crew. Until recently.

Starbucks, the coffee giant, was looking for a US plant that would make mugs as part of its Indivisible line of American-made merchandise sold in company-owned stores and online to support the Create Jobs for USA initiative. A mutual contact introduced Starbucks to American Mug and Stein, and it seemed like a perfect fit, except for one thing: Because of the size of the initial order for mugs, McClellan needed financing to expand to meet the demands of the increased business.

When local banks said no to providing Clyde a loan, a CDFI—and Create Jobs for USA capital grant Awardee—The Progress Fund, said yes, and gave him the $, loan he needed to increase production, providing jobs and hope for the small town of East Liverpool. The Progress Fund’s loan and Starbucks’ large standing monthly mug order has created eight new full-time jobs in an area where more than 10 percent of working-age residents are unemployed.

The loan will allow for the expansion of the school to accommodate students in grades nine through

According to a recent study by Michigan State University, only 32 percent of Detroit’s public high school students graduate in four years. Yet bringing high-quality education to Detroit’s disenfranchised inner city isn’t easy. Traditional banks are reluctant to finance new public schools—particularly innovative ones—because of the perceived risk in investing in low-income community development. So when Operation Graduation, a non-profit organization committed to providing Detroit’s children with more and better educational opportunities, began raising money to acquire and renovate a facility for the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, they turned to NCB Capital Impact, a CDFI with a long record of successfully financing promising charter schools in low-income communities.

The result was a $ million loan that allowed Operation Graduation to begin renovations on the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a new charter high school in midtown Detroit serving approximately ninth graders in its first year of operation, 80 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced price lunches. The loan will allow for the expansion of the school to accommodate students in grades nine through It will also help create 13 new permanent jobs at the school. Named after co-founder Jalen Rose, a former professional basketball player from Detroit and current ESPN analyst, the charter school has received support from multiple sources, including Michigan Future, a group of area foundation and business leaders with a mission to create more high-quality schools in Detroit. The Academy has also partnered with the University of Detroit Mercy, which will allow Jalen Rose students to take college-level courses, and Jeep, which will offer mentoring and other opportunities.

VCC, along with six mission investors, provided funding that enabled Impact Makers to create 26 full-time jobs and recruit the best and brightest talent in the field.

Michael Pirron, founder and chief executive officer of Impact Makers, an IT and management consulting firm in Richmond, VA, enjoys competition—and is good at it. His firm recently posted a three-year growth that earned it a place on Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing private companies. Tremendous growth aside, what really makes the company stand out among competitors is its business model. A socially minded for-profit without shareholders, Impact Makers donates its profits—and offers pro-bono consulting—to local charities.

Pirron realized the next step for his business, if it’s to continue making an impact competitively and charitably, is expansion. A business partner connected him to Virginia Community Capital (VCC), which shares Impact Makers' commitment to social responsibility. VCC, along with six mission investors, provided funding that enabled Impact Makers to create 26 full-time jobs and recruit the best and brightest talent in the field. As a result, the firm has already doubled sales projections for the year, forecasting good returns for the company and its nonprofit beneficiaries.

The property's nonprofit developer, Housing Partnership, needed a partner that could provide permanent equity as well as construction financing, but most investors were unwilling to participate in such a small deal.

FAHE closed a $, construction loan to transform a historic Catholic school building into a unit apartment building for seniors in Louisville, with the help of a capital grant from Create Jobs for USA.

The property's nonprofit developer, Housing Partnership, needed a partner that could provide permanent equity as well as construction financing, but most investors were unwilling to participate in such a small deal. By applying FAHE's expertise in rental housing for rural communities, the developers get the capital they need and investors get a reliable return.

The project will break ground and begin construction in January and will employ workers during construction and preserve 23 jobs through ongoing management, maintenance, and supportive services.

Sister Sky products share Native American herbal wisdom with a worldwide audience in an authentic and respectful manner that promotes harmony, balance, education, sustainability, and cultural sharing.

Sister Sky was established in by sisters Monica Gutierrez-Simeon and Marina Gutierrez-TurningRobe, both members of the Spokane Tribe. Sister Sky's mission is to create natural bath and body products inspired by herbal wisdom of Native American culture. Honoring these traditions, the company formulates its products with a guiding principle: Infuse botanical ingredients to enhance health and wellness. Sister Sky products share Native American herbal wisdom with a worldwide audience in an authentic and respectful manner that promotes harmony, balance, education, sustainability, and cultural sharing. It is the only personal care product line approved by the Intertribal Agriculture Council to use the "Made by American Indians" trademark. The products, including body wash, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, and soap, are formulated to be gentle to the skin, with no mineral oil or petroleum products, they are paraben- and lanolin-free, biodegradable, and not tested on animals. Their high-quality products featuring eco-friendly packaging are in high demand by such groups as a national hotel amenities products distributor, which gave a contract to the Spokane-based company.

In anticipation of production growth, Sister Sky approached a traditional financing institution for a loan in September of , but Monica and Marina were turned down, so they approached Craft3 in first quarter Craft3 provided them a $, loan which will expand Sister Sky’s capacity to serve existing tribal gaming properties and expand into regional and national hotel chains. Craft3’s loan allowed the borrower to capitalize on their improved business model, and create one new full-time position.

The loans saved 10 jobs, are creating a handful of construction jobs, and will create five part-time seasonal jobs, all while preserving open land and encouraging sustainable family farming.

For four years, organic farmers Luke and Catarina Mahoney—owners of Brookford Farm—provided residents throughout New Hampshire’s seacoast with healthy, natural, locally-grown food. Then they learned that the lease on their farmland wouldn’t be renewed. The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund (Community Loan Fund) provided a loan to help the couple buy a parcel of land and renovate an existing dairy farm there to build a new Brookford Farm. Community Loan Fund also provided a subsequent loan to finance their new equipment needs. The loans saved 10 jobs, are creating a handful of construction jobs, and will create five part-time seasonal jobs, all while preserving open land and encouraging sustainable family farming.

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Careers


LOAN SERVICING ASSISTANT/COLLECTION REPRESENTATIVE

We currently have an opening for a full time Loan Servicing Assistant/Collection Representative at our Brookfield Office location at W. Bluemound Rd. The position supports loan servicing functions, reviews and contacts customers to resolve any delinquencies, delivers comprehensive and prompt customer service to internal and external customers and exercises quality control oversight in the execution of all duties. 

Job Schedule: Monday – Friday ap

Key functions include but are not limited to the following:

  • Deliver excellent customer service to internal and external customers in the execution of all assigned loan servicing duties within service level standards.
  •  Prepare payoff quotes as written requests are received from escrow companies, branches and clients.
  • File recordable loan documents
  • Receive and post incoming payoff checks and insure any overages are returned to the client.
  • Prepare the lien release for real estate secured loans.
  •  Assist department with other daily functions.
  • Follows up on delinquent accounts by telephone, e-mail, and correspondence, to secure a satisfactory resolution of repayment
  • Makes early contact with customers to collect and keep them informed of loan status
  • Determines reasons for delinquencies and works toward permanent solutions
  • Maintains the Bank’s professional reputation throughout collection process
  • Maintains confidentiality
  • Stays informed of changes in collection policies, procedures, and related legal requirements
  • Review and closely monitor delinquent and problem accounts
  • Makes delinquent collection calls and mails delinquent notice letters out to customers
  • Takes and processes payments over the phone
  • Prepares and reviews all documentation for completeness and accuracy
  • Maintains privacy of customer personal and account information
  • Remain informed of changes in bank policies, procedures, and products.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Job Requirements:  

  • Position requires a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • years of bank loan servicing, loan originating or loan operations experience or a combination of lending and general banking experience required. Experience in real estate lending processing and documentation is beneficial.
  • Able to deal effectively and tactfully with internal and external clients.
  • Can function well under deadlines.
  • Excellent time management and organizational skills.
  • Must be able to prioritize workflow, balance multiple priorities and deadlines, and manage a variety of projects in a fast-paced, flexible work environment with strong attention to detail.
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Experience with Microsoft Office application and Fiserv Clear Touch processing system
  • Regular, consistent attendance.
  • Ability to use independent judgment and discretion in various situations while maintaining a high degree of confidentiality.

Please email resume to:
 Human Resources, Great Midwest Bank, W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield, WI   
[email protected]

WE ARE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER Minority/Female/Veteran/Disabled

CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE OPPORTUNITY

Great Midwest Bank has an opening for a dependable, customer service oriented individual to fill a Part Time Customer Service Representative position at our Hartland, WI Office.

If you consider yourself to be a flexible individual, enjoy working with people, and possess prior customer service experience, and/ or frontline banking, Great Midwest Bank may have a position for you as a Customer Service Representative.  We are currently looking for a Part Time customer-service orientated individual to join our team to work as a frontline Customer Service Representative assisting customers with their banking transactions in our Hartland, WI Branch location. 

To qualify for this position, you must have:  

  • Previous banking experience, customer service, and/or cash handling required. Prior banking experience is preferred.
  • Possess good computer skills and knowledge of basic Windows, Word and Excel.
  • Have a strong ability to multi-task, be very detail oriented, and be a strong team player.
  • Excellent internal and external customer service, interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Ability to identify and meet our customer service needs.
  • Proven abilities of accuracy and attention to detail.
  • Ability to maintain strict confidentiality.
  • Exhibits an understanding of and compliance with applicable federal and state banking laws and regulations or obtain the ability to acquire.

Approximately hours per week

  • Work several Weekday Afternoons – Primarily would work pm – Schedule may vary
  • Work Thursdays p
  • Work up to 3 Saturdays a month 9ap

Please email resume to:
 Human Resources, Great Midwest Bank, W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield, WI   
[email protected]


WE ARE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER Minority/Female/Veteran/Disabled



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I. Introduction

"Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California," Library of Congress.

In this famous photograph by Dorothea Lange, a destitute, thirty-two-year-old mother of seven captures the agonies of the Great Depression. Library of Congress.

*The American Yawp is an evolving, collaborative text. Please click here to improve this chapter.*

Hard times had hit the United States before, but never had an economic crisis lasted so long or inflicted as much harm as the slump that followed the crash. After nearly a decade of supposed prosperity, the economy crashed to a halt. People suddenly stopped borrowing and buying. Industries built on debt-fueled purchases sold fewer goods. Retailers lowered prices and, when that did not attract enough buyers to turn profits, they laid off workers to lower labor costs. With so many people out of work and without income, shops sold even less, dropped their prices lower still, and then shed still more workers, creating a vicious downward cycle.

Four years after the crash, the Great Depression reached its lowest point: nearly one in four Americans who wanted a job could not find one and, of those who could, more than half had to settle for part-time work. Farmers could not make enough money from their crops to make harvesting worthwhile. Food rotted in the fields of a starving nation.

The needy drew down whatever savings they had, turned to their families, and sought out charities for public assistance. Soon they all were depleted. Unemployed workers and cash-strapped farmers could not defaulted on their debts, including their mortgages. Already over-extended banks, deprived of income, took savings accounts down with them when they closed. Fear-stricken observers went to their own banks and demanded their deposits. Banks that otherwise might have endured the crisis fell prey to panic, and shut down as well.

With so little being bought and sold, and so little lent and spent, with even bankers unable to lay their hands on money, the nation’s economy ground nearly to a halt. None of the remedies adopted by the president or the Congress succeeded—not higher tariffs, nor restriction of immigration, nor sticking to sound money, nor expressions of confidence in the resilience of the American people. Whatever good these measures achieved, it was not enough.

In the presidential election, the incumbent president, Herbert Hoover, a Republican, promised that he would stand firm against those who, he said, would destroy the U.S. Constitution to restore the economy. Chief among these supposedly dangerous experimenters was the Democratic presidential nominee, New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, who began his campaign by pledging a New Deal for the American people.

The voters chose Roosevelt in a landslide, inaugurating a rapid and enduring transformation in the U.S. government. Even though the New Deal never achieved as much as its proponents hoped or its opponents feared, it did more than any other peacetime program to change how Americans saw their country.

 

“Crowd of people gather outside the New York Stock Exchange following the Crash of ,” Library of Congress, mynewextsetup.us

Crowds of people gather outside the New York Stock Exchange following the crash of Library of Congress.

On Thursday, October 24, , stock market prices suddenly plummeted. Ten billion dollars in investments (roughly equivalent to about $ billion today) disappeared in a matter of hours. Panicked selling set in, stock values sank to sudden lows, and stunned investors crowded the New York Stock Exchange demanding answers. Leading bankers met privately at the offices of J. P. Morgan and raised millions in personal and institutional contributions to halt the slide. They marched across the street and ceremoniously bought stocks at inflated prices. The market temporarily stabilized but fears spread over the weekend and the following week frightened investors dumped their portfolios to avoid further losses. On October 29, Black Tuesday, the stock market began its long precipitous fall. Stock values evaporated. Shares of U.S. Steel dropped from $ to $ General Motors stock fell from $73 a share to $8. Four fifths of J. D. Rockefeller’s fortune—the greatest in American history—vanished.

Although the crash stunned the nation, it exposed the deeper, underlying problems with the American economy in the s. The stock market’s popularity grew throughout the decade, but only percent of Americans had brokerage accounts; the overwhelming majority of Americans had no direct personal stake in Wall Street. The stock market’s collapse, no matter how dramatic, did not by itself depress the American economy. Instead, the crash exposed a great number of factors that, when combined with the financial panic, sank the American economy into the greatest of all economic crises. Rising inequality, declining demand, rural collapse, overextended investors, and the bursting of speculative bubbles all conspired to plunge the nation into the Great Depression.

Despite resistance by Progressives, the vast gap between rich and poor accelerated throughout the early twentieth century. In the aggregate, Americans were better off in than in Per capita income had risen 10 percent for all Americans, but 75 percent for the nation’s wealthiest citizens.1 The return of conservative politics in the s reinforced federal fiscal policies that exacerbated the divide: low corporate and personal taxes, easy credit, and depressed interest rates overwhelmingly favored wealthy investors who, flush with cash, spent their money on luxury goods and speculative investments in the rapidly rising stock market.

The pro-business policies of the s were designed for an American economy built on the production and consumption of durable goods. Yet by the late s, much of the market was saturated. The boom of automobile manufacturing, the great driver of the American economy in the s, slowed as fewer and fewer Americans with the means to purchase a car had not already done so. More and more, the well-to-do had no need for the new automobiles, radios, and other consumer goods that fueled gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the s. When products failed to sell, inventories piled up, manufacturers scaled back production, and companies fired workers, stripping potential consumers of cash, blunting demand for consumer goods, and replicating the downward economic cycle. The situation was only compounded by increased automation and rising efficiency in American factories. Despite impressive overall growth throughout the s, unemployment hovered around 7 percent throughout the decade, suppressing purchasing power for a great swath of potential consumers.2

Photograph of an assembly line at a Ford plant.

While a manufacturing innovation, Henry Ford’s assembly line produced so many cars as to flood the automobile market in the s. Wikimedia.

For American farmers, meanwhile, hard times began long before the markets crashed. In and , after several years of larger-than-average profits, farm prices in the South and West continued their long decline, plummeting as production climbed and domestic and international demand for cotton, foodstuffs, and other agricultural products stalled. Widespread soil exhaustion on western farms only compounded the problem. Farmers found themselves unable to make payments on loans taken out during the good years, and banks in agricultural areas tightened credit in response. By , farm families were overextended, in no shape to make up for declining consumption, and in a precarious economic position even before the Depression wrecked the global economy.3

Despite serious foundational problems in the industrial and agricultural economy, most Americans in and still believed the economy would bounce back. In , amid one of the Depression’s many false hopes, President Herbert Hoover reassured an audience that “the depression is over.”4 But the president was not simply guilty of false optimism. Hoover made many mistakes. During his election campaign, Hoover promoted higher tariffs as a means for encouraging domestic consumption and protecting American farmers from foreign competition. Spurred by the ongoing agricultural depression, Hoover signed into law the highest tariff in American history, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of , just as global markets began to crumble. Other countries responded in kind, tariff walls rose across the globe, and international trade ground to a halt. Between and , international trade dropped from $36 billion to only $12 billion. American exports fell by 78 percent. Combined with overproduction and declining domestic consumption, the tariff exacerbated the world’s economic collapse.5

But beyond structural flaws, speculative bubbles, and destructive protectionism, the final contributing element of the Great Depression was a quintessentially human one: panic. The frantic reaction to the market’s fall aggravated the economy’s other many failings. More economic policies backfired. The Federal Reserve overcorrected in their response to speculation by raising interest rates and tightening credit. Across the country, banks denied loans and called in debts. Their patrons, afraid that reactionary policies meant further financial trouble, rushed to withdraw money before institutions could close their doors, ensuring their fate. Such bank runs were not uncommon in the s, but in , with the economy worsening and panic from the crash accelerating, 1, banks failed. In , nearly 2, banks collapsed, taking personal deposits, savings, and credit with them.6

The Great Depression was the confluence of many problems, most of which had begun during a time of unprecedented economic growth. Fiscal policies of the Republican “business presidents” undoubtedly widened the gap between rich and poor and fostered a standoff over international trade, but such policies were widely popular and, for much of the decade, widely seen as a source of the decade’s explosive growth. With fortunes to be won and standards of living to maintain, few Americans had the foresight or wherewithal to repudiate an age of easy credit, rampant consumerism, and wild speculation. Instead, as the Depression worked its way across the United States, Americans hoped to weather the economic storm as best they could, hoping for some relief from the ever-mounting economic collapse that was strangling so many lives.

 

Photograph of unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone,” February Wikimedia, mynewextsetup.us:Unemployed_men_queued_outside_a_depression_soup_kitchen_opened_in_Chicago_by_Al_Capone,__-_NARA_-_jpg.

Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone. February Wikimedia.

As the Depression spread, public blame settled on President Herbert Hoover and the conservative politics of the Republican Party. In , having won the presidency in a landslide, Hoover had no reason to believe that his presidency would be any different than that of his predecessor, Calvin Coolidge, whose time in office was marked by relative government inaction, seemingly rampant prosperity, and high approval ratings.7Hoover entered office on a wave of popular support, but by October the economic collapse had overwhelmed his presidency. Like all too many Americans, Hoover and his advisors assumed—or perhaps simply hoped—that the sharp financial and economic decline was a temporary downturn, another “bust” of the inevitable boom-bust cycles that stretched back through America’s commercial history. &#;Any lack of confidence in the economic future and the basic strength of business in the United States is simply foolish,&#; he said in November.8 And yet the crisis grew. Unemployment commenced a slow, sickening rise. New-car registrations dropped by almost a quarter within a few months.9 Consumer spending on durable goods dropped by a fifth in 10

When suffering Americans looked to Hoover for help, Hoover could only answer with volunteerism. He asked business leaders to promise to maintain investments and employment and encouraged state and local charities to assist those in need. Hoover established the President’s Organization for Unemployment Relief, or POUR, to help organize the efforts of private agencies. While POUR urged charitable giving, charitable relief organizations were overwhelmed by the growing needs of the many multiplying unemployed, underfed, and unhoused Americans. By mid, for instance, a quarter of all of New York’s private charities closed: they had simply run out of money. In Atlanta, solvent relief charities could only provide $ per week to needy families. The size and scope of the Depression overpowered the radically insufficient capacity of private volunteer organizations to mediate the crisis.11

Although Hoover is sometimes categorized as a “business president” in line with his Republican predecessors, he also embraced a kind of business progressivism, a system of voluntary action called associationalism that assumed Americans could maintain a web of voluntary cooperative organizations dedicated to providing economic assistance and services to those in need. Businesses, the thinking went, would willingly limit harmful practice for the greater economic good. To Hoover, direct government aid would discourage a healthy work ethic while associationalism would encourage the self-control and self-initiative that fueled economic growth. But when the Depression exposed the incapacity of such strategies to produce an economic recovery, Hoover proved insufficiently flexible to recognize the limits of his ideology.12 &#;We cannot legislate ourselves out of a world economic depression,&#; he told Congress in 13

Hoover resisted direct action. As the crisis deepened, even bankers and businessmen and the president&#;s own advisors and appointees all pleaded with him to use the government&#;s power to fight the Depression. But his conservative ideology wouldn&#;t allow him to. He believed in limited government as a matter of principle. Senator Robert Wagner of New York said in that the president&#;s policy was “to do nothing and when the pressure becomes irresistible to do as little as possible.”14 By , with the economy long since stagnant and a reelection campaign looming, Hoover, hoping to stimulate American industry, created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) to provide emergency loans to banks, building-and-loan societies, railroads, and other private industries. It was radical in its use of direct government aid and out of character for the normally laissez-faire Hoover, but it also bypassed needy Americans to bolster industrial and financial interests. New York congressman Fiorello LaGuardia, who later served as mayor of New York City, captured public sentiment when he denounced the RFC as a “millionaire’s dole.”15

 

In a woman from Humboldt County, California, wrote to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt seeking a job for her husband, a surveyor, who had been out of work for nearly two years. The pair had survived on the meager income she received from working at the county courthouse. “My salary could keep us going,” she explained, “but—I am to have a baby.” The family needed temporary help, and, she explained, “after that I can go back to work and we can work out our own salvation. But to have this baby come to a home full of worry and despair, with no money for the things it needs, is not fair. It needs and deserves a happy start in life.”16

As the United States slid ever deeper into the Great Depression, such tragic scenes played out time and time again. Individuals, families, and communities faced the painful, frightening, and often bewildering collapse of the economic institutions on which they depended. The more fortunate were spared the worst effects, and a few even profited from it, but by the end of , the crisis had become so deep and so widespread that most Americans had suffered directly. Markets crashed through no fault of their own. Workers were plunged into poverty because of impersonal forces for which they shared no responsibility.

With rampant unemployment and declining wages, Americans slashed expenses. The fortunate could survive by simply deferring vacations and regular consumer purchases. Middle- and working-class Americans might rely on disappearing credit at neighborhood stores, default on utility bills, or skip meals. Those who could borrowed from relatives or took in boarders in homes or “doubled up” in tenements. But such resources couldn&#;t withstand the unending relentlessness of the economic crisis. As one New York City official explained in ,

When the breadwinner is out of a job he usually exhausts his savings if he has any.… He borrows from his friends and from his relatives until they can stand the burden no longer. He gets credit from the corner grocery store and the butcher shop, and the landlord forgoes collecting the rent until interest and taxes have to be paid and something has to be done. All of these resources are finally exhausted over a period of time, and it becomes necessary for these people, who have never before been in want, to go on assistance.17

But public assistance and private charities were quickly exhausted by the scope of the crisis. As one Detroit city official put it in ,

Many essential public services have been reduced beyond the minimum point absolutely essential to the health and safety of the city.… The salaries of city employees have been twice reduced … and hundreds of faithful employees … have been furloughed. Thus has the city borrowed from its own future welfare to keep its unemployed on the barest subsistence levels.… A wage work plan which had supported 11, families collapsed last month because the city was unable to find funds to pay these unemployed—men who wished to earn their own support. For the coming year, Detroit can see no possibility of preventing wide-spread hunger and slow starvation through its own unaided resources.18

These most desperate Americans, the chronically unemployed, encamped on public or marginal lands in “Hoovervilles,” spontaneous shantytowns that dotted America’s cities, depending on bread lines and street-corner peddling. One doctor recalled that “every day … someone would faint on a streetcar. They’d bring him in, and they wouldn’t ask any questions.… they knew what it was. Hunger.”19

The emotional and psychological shocks of unemployment and underemployment only added to the shocking material depravities of the Depression. Social workers and charity officials, for instance, often found the unemployed suffering from feelings of futility, anger, bitterness, confusion, and loss of pride.20 “A man is not a man without work,” one of the jobless told an interviewer.21 The ideal of the “male breadwinner” was always a fiction for poor Americans, and, during the crisis, women and young children entered the labor force, as they always had. But, in such a labor crisis, many employers, subscribing to traditional notions of male bread-winning, were less likely to hire married women and more likely to dismiss those they already employed.22 As one politician remarked at the time, the woman worker was “the first orphan in the storm.”23

American suppositions about family structure meant that women suffered disproportionately from the Depression. Since the start of the twentieth century, single women had become an increasing share of the workforce, but married women, Americans were likely to believe, took a job because they wanted to and not because they needed it. Once the Depression came, employers were therefore less likely to hire married women and more likely to dismiss those they already employed.24 Women on their own and without regular work suffered a greater threat of sexual violence than their male counterparts; accounts of such women suggest they depended on each other for protection25

The Great Depression was particularly tough for nonwhite Americans. “The Negro was born in depression,&#; one Black pensioner told interviewer Studs Terkel. &#;It didn’t mean too much to him. The Great American Depression . . . only became official when it hit the white man.” ((Studs Terkel,Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression(New York: Pantheon Books, ), .)) Black workers were generally the last hired when businesses expanded production and the first fired when businesses experienced downturns. As a National Urban League study found, “So general is this practice that one is warranted in suspecting that it has been adopted as a method of relieving unemployment of whites without regard to the consequences upon Negroes.”26 In , with the national unemployment average hovering around 25 percent, Black unemployment reached as high as 50 percent, while even Black workers who kept their jobs saw their already low wages cut dramatically.27

 

On the Great Plains, environmental catastrophe deepened America’s longstanding agricultural crisis and magnified the tragedy of the Depression. Beginning in , severe droughts hit from Texas to the Dakotas and lasted until at least The droughts compounded years of agricultural mismanagement. To grow their crops, Plains farmers had plowed up natural ground cover that had taken ages to form over the surface of the dry Plains states. Relatively wet decades had protected them, but, during the early s, without rain, the exposed fertile topsoil turned to dust, and without sod or windbreaks such as trees, rolling winds churned the dust into massive storms that blotted out the sky, choked settlers and livestock, and rained dirt not only across the region but as far east as Washington, D.C., New England, and ships on the Atlantic Ocean. The Dust Bowl, as the region became known, exposed all-too-late the need for conservation. The region’s farmers, already hit by years of foreclosures and declining commodity prices, were decimated.28 For many in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas who were “baked out, blown out, and broke,” their only hope was to travel west to California, whose rains still brought bountiful harvests and—potentially—jobs for farmworkers. It was an exodus. Oklahoma lost , people, or a full percent of its population, to outmigration.29

This iconic photograph made real the suffering of millions during the Great Depression. Dorothea Lange, “Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California” or “Migrant Mother,” February/March Library of Congress, mynewextsetup.us

This iconic photograph by Dorothea Lange of a destitute, thirty-two-year-old mother of seven made real the suffering of millions during the Great Depression. Library of Congress.

Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother became one of the most enduring images of the Dust Bowl and the ensuing westward exodus. Lange, a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, captured the image at a migrant farmworker camp in Nipomo, California, in In the photograph a young mother stares out with a worried, weary expression. She was a migrant, having left her home in Oklahoma to follow the crops to the Golden State. She took part in what many in the mids were beginning to recognize as a vast migration of families out of the southwestern Plains states. In the image she cradles an infant and supports two older children, who cling to her. Lange’s photo encapsulated the nation’s struggle. The subject of the photograph seemed used to hard work but down on her luck, and uncertain about what the future might hold.

The Okies, as such westward migrants were disparagingly called by their new neighbors, were the most visible group who were on the move during the Depression, lured by news and rumors of jobs in far-flung regions of the country. Men from all over the country, some abandoning families, hitched rides, hopped freight cars, or otherwise made their way around the country. By , sociologists were estimating that millions of men were on the roads and rails traveling the country.30 Popular magazines and newspapers were filled with stories of homeless boys and the veterans-turned-migrants of the Bonus Army commandeering boxcars. Popular culture, such as William Wellman’s film, Wild Boys of the Road, and, most famously, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, published in and turned into a hit movie a year later, captured the Depression’s dislocated populations.

These years witnessed the first significant reversal in the flow of people between rural and urban areas. Thousands of city dwellers fled the jobless cities and moved to the country looking for work. As relief efforts floundered, many state and local officials threw up barriers to migration, making it difficult for newcomers to receive relief or find work. Some state legislatures made it a crime to bring poor migrants into the state and allowed local officials to deport migrants to neighboring states. In the winter of –, California, Florida, and Colorado established “border blockades” to block poor migrants from their states and reduce competition with local residents for jobs. A billboard outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, informed potential migrants that there were “NO JOBS in California” and warned them to “KEEP Out.”31

Photograph of a family traveling by foot down a road. A small child is in a wheel barrow packed with blankets.

During her assignment as a photographer for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Dorothea Lange documented the movement of migrant families forced from their homes by drought and economic depression. This family, captured by Lange in , was in the process of traveling miles by foot, across Oklahoma, because the father was ill and therefore unable to receive relief or WPA work. Library of Congress.

Sympathy for migrants, however, accelerated late in the Depression with the publication of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The Joad family’s struggles drew attention to the plight of Depression-era migrants and, just a month after the nationwide release of the film version, Congress created the Select Committee to Investigate the Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens. Starting in , the committee held widely publicized hearings. But it was too late. Within a year of its founding, defense industries were already gearing up in the wake of the outbreak of World War II, and the “problem” of migration suddenly became a lack of migrants needed to fill war industries. Such relief was nowhere to be found in the s.

Americans meanwhile feared foreign workers willing to work for even lower wages. The Saturday Evening Post warned that foreign immigrants, who were “compelled to accept employment on any terms and conditions offered,” would exacerbate the economic crisis.32 On September 8, , the Hoover administration issued a press release on the administration of immigration laws “under existing conditions of unemployment.” Hoover instructed consular officers to scrutinize carefully the visa applications of those “likely to become public charges” and suggested that this might include denying visas to most, if not all, alien laborers and artisans. The crisis itself had stifled foreign immigration, but such restrictive and exclusionary actions in the first years of the Depression intensified its effects. The number of European visas issued fell roughly 60 percent while deportations dramatically increased. Between and , fifty-four thousand people were deported. An additional forty-four thousand deportable aliens left “voluntarily.&#;33

Exclusionary measures hit Mexican immigrants particularly hard. The State Department made a concerted effort to reduce immigration from Mexico as early as , and Hoover’s executive actions arrived the following year. Officials in the Southwest led a coordinated effort to push out Mexican immigrants. In Los Angeles, the Citizens Committee on Coordination of Unemployment Relief began working closely with federal officials in early to conduct deportation raids, while the Los Angeles County Department of Charities began a simultaneous drive to repatriate Mexicans and Mexican Americans on relief, negotiating a charity rate with the railroads to return Mexicans “voluntarily” to their mother country. According to the federal census, from to the Mexican-born population living in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas fell from , to , Franklin Roosevelt did not indulge anti-immigrant sentiment as willingly as Hoover had. Under the New Deal, the Immigration and Naturalization Service halted some of the Hoover administration’s most divisive practices, but with jobs suddenly scarce, hostile attitudes intensified, and official policies less than welcoming, immigration plummeted and deportations rose. Over the course of the Depression, more people left the United States than entered it.34

Photograph of shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military. The Capitol in the background. Wikimedia, mynewextsetup.us:mynewextsetup.us

Shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military. The Capitol in the background. Wikimedia.

In the summer of , more than fifteen-thousand unemployed veterans and their families converged on Washington, D.C. to petition for a bill authorizing immediate payment of cash bonuses to veterans of World War I that were originally scheduled to be paid out in Given the economic hardships facing the country, the bonus came to symbolize government relief for the most deserving recipients. The veterans in D.C. erected a tent city across the Potomac River in Anacostia Flats, a “Hooverville” in the spirit of the camps of homeless and unemployed Americans then appearing in American cities. Calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, or the Bonus Army, they drilled and marched and demonstrated for their bonuses. &#;While there were billions for bankers, there was nothing for the poor,&#; they complained.

Concerned with what immediate payment would do to the federal budget, Hoover opposed the bill, which was eventually voted down by the Senate. While most of the “Bonus Army” left Washington in defeat, many stayed to press their case. Hoover called the remaining veterans “insurrectionists” and ordered them to leave. When thousands failed to heed the vacation order, General Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by local police, infantry, cavalry, tanks, and a machine gun squadron, stormed the tent city and routed the Bonus Army. Troops chased down men and women, tear-gassed children, and torched the shantytown.35 Two marchers were shot and killed and a baby was killed by tear gas.

The national media reported on the raid, newsreels showed footage, and Americans recoiled at Hoover’s insensitivity toward suffering Americans. His overall unwillingness to address widespread economic problems and his repeated platitudes about returning prosperity condemned his presidency. Hoover of course was not responsible for the Depression, not personally. But neither he nor his advisors conceived of the enormity of the crisis, a crisis his conservative ideology could neither accommodate nor address. Americans had so far found little relief from Washington. But they were still looking for it.

 

This poster shows the kind of work completed by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. The poster shows that 49% of employees worked in the fine arts, 29% in practical arts, 16% in education, and 6% in miscellaneous other tasks.

Posters like this production showing the extent of the Federal Art Project were used to prove the value of the WPA—and, by extension, the entire New Deal—to the American people. Wikimedia.

The early years of the Depression were catastrophic. The crisis, far from relenting, deepened each year. Unemployment peaked at 25 percent in With no end in sight, and with private firms crippled and charities overwhelmed by the crisis, Americans looked to their government as the last barrier against starvation, hopelessness, and perpetual poverty.

Few presidential elections in modern American history have been more consequential than that of The United States was struggling through the third year of the Depression, and exasperated voters overthrew Hoover in a landslide for the Democratic governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt came from a privileged background in New York’s Hudson River Valley (his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, became president while Franklin was at Harvard) and embarked on a slow but steady ascent through state and national politics. In , he was appointed assistant secretary of the navy, a position he held during the defense emergency of World War I. In the course of his rise, in the summer of , Roosevelt suffered a sudden bout of lower-body pain and paralysis. He was diagnosed with polio. The disease left him a paraplegic, but, encouraged and assisted by his wife, Eleanor, Roosevelt sought therapeutic treatment and maintained sufficient political connections to reenter politics. In , Roosevelt won election as governor of New York. He oversaw the rise of the Depression and drew from the tradition of American progressivism to address the economic crisis. He explained to the state assembly in , the crisis demanded a government response &#;not as a matter of charity, but as a matter of social duty.” As governor he established the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), supplying public work jobs at the prevailing wage and in-kind aid—food, shelter, and clothes—to those unable to afford it. Soon the TERA was providing work and relief to ten percent of the state’s families.36 Roosevelt relied on many like-minded advisors. Frances Perkins, for example, the commissioner of the state’s labor department, successfully advocated pioneering legislation that enhanced workplace safety and reduced the use of child labor in factories. Perkins later accompanied Roosevelt to Washington and served as the nation’s first female secretary of labor.37

On July 1, , Roosevelt, the newly designated presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, delivered the first and one of the most famous on-site acceptance speeches in American presidential history. In it, he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” Newspaper editors seized on the phrase “new deal,” and it entered the American political lexicon as shorthand for Roosevelt’s program to address the Great Depression.38

Roosevelt proposed jobs programs, public work projects, higher wages, shorter hours, old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, farm subsidies, banking regulations, and lower tariffs. Hoover warned that such a program represented &#;the total abandonment of every principle upon which this government and the American system is founded.&#; He warned that it reeked of European communism, and that &#;the so called new deals would destroy the very foundations of the American system of life.”39Americans didn&#;t buy it. Roosevelt crushed Hoover in November. He won more counties than any previous candidate in American history. He spent the months between his election and inauguration&#;the twentieth amendment, ratified in , would subsequently the inauguration from March 4 to January 20&#;traveling, planning, and assembling a team of advisors, the famous Brain Trust of academics and experts, to help him formulate a plan of attack. On March 4, , in his first inaugural address, Roosevelt famously declared, “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”40

Roosevelt’s reassuring words would have rung hollow if he had not taken swift action against the economic crisis. In his first days in office, Roosevelt and his advisors prepared, submitted, and secured congressional enactment of numerous laws designed to arrest the worst of the Great Depression. His administration threw the federal government headlong into the fight against the mynewextsetup.uselt immediately looked to stabilize the collapsing banking system. Two out of every five banks open in had been shuttered and some Federal Reserve banks were on the verge of insolvency.41 Roosevelt declared a national “bank holiday” closing American banks and set to work pushing the Emergency Banking Act swiftly through Congress. On March 12, the night before select banks reopened under stricter federal guidelines, Roosevelt appeared on the radio in the first of his Fireside Chats. The addresses, which the president continued delivering through four terms, were informal, even personal. Roosevelt used his airtime to explain New Deal legislation, to encourage confidence in government action, and to mobilize the American people’s support. In the first chat, Roosevelt described the new banking safeguards and asked the public to place their trust and their savings in banks. Americans responded and deposits outpaced withdrawals across the country. The act was a major success. In June, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Banking Act, which instituted a federal deposit insurance system through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and barred the mixing of commercial and investment banking.42

Stabilizing the banks was only a first step. In the remainder of his First Hundred Days, Roosevelt and his congressional allies focused especially on relief for suffering Americans.43 Congress debated, amended, and passed what Roosevelt proposed. As one historian noted, the president “directed the entire operation like a seasoned field general.”44 And despite some questions over the constitutionality of many of his actions, Americans and their congressional representatives conceded that the crisis demanded swift and immediate action. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employed young men on conservation and reforestation projects; the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) provided direct cash assistance to state relief agencies struggling to care for the unemployed;45  the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built a series of hydroelectric dams along the Tennessee River as part of a comprehensive program to economically develop a chronically depressed region;46 and several agencies helped home and farm owners refinance their mortgages. And Roosevelt wasn’t done.

The heart of Roosevelt’s early recovery program consisted of two massive efforts to stabilize and coordinate the American economy: the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) and the National Recovery Administration (NRA). The AAA, created in May , aimed to raise the prices of agricultural commodities (and hence farmers’ income) by offering cash incentives to voluntarily limit farm production (decreasing supply, thereby raising prices).47 The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which created the NRA in June , suspended antitrust laws to allow businesses to establish “codes” that would coordinate prices, regulate production levels, and establish conditions of employment to curtail “cutthroat competition.” In exchange for these exemptions, businesses agreed to provide reasonable wages and hours, end child labor, and allow workers the right to unionize. Participating businesses earned the right to display a placard with the NRA’s Blue Eagle, showing their cooperation in the effort to combat the Great Depression.48

The programs of the First Hundred Days stabilized the American economy and ushered in a robust though imperfect recovery. GDP climbed once more, but even as output increased, unemployment remained stubbornly high. Though the unemployment rate dipped from its high in , when Roosevelt was inaugurated, vast numbers remained out of work. If the economy could not put people back to work, the New Deal would try. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) and, later, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) put unemployed men and women to work on projects designed and proposed by local governments. The Public Works Administration (PWA) provided grants-in-aid to local governments for large infrastructure projects, such as bridges, tunnels, schoolhouses, libraries, and America’s first federal public housing projects. Together, they provided not only tangible projects of immense public good but employment for millions. The New Deal was reshaping much of the nation.49

This poster advertises a meeting for "Working people of Washington Negro and White Student and Intellectuals" to defend the Scottsboro Boys. A photo of the boys and their attorney is included.

The accusation of rape brought against the so-called Scottsboro Boys, pictured with their attorney in , generated controversy across the country. Wikipedia.

The impact of initial New Deal legislation was readily apparent in the South, a region of perpetual poverty especially plagued by the Depression. In the average per capita income in the American Southeast was $, the lowest in the nation. Southern farmers averaged $ per year at a time when farmers on the West Coast made more than four times that.50 Moreover, they were trapped into the production of cotton and corn, crops that depleted the soil and returned ever-diminishing profits. Despite the ceaseless efforts of civic boosters, what little industry the South had remained low-wage, low-skilled, and primarily extractive. Southern workers made significantly less than their national counterparts: 75 percent of nonsouthern textile workers, 60 percent of iron and steel workers, and a paltry 45 percent of lumber workers. At the time of the crash, southerners were already underpaid, underfed, and undereducated.51

Major New Deal programs were designed with the South in mind. FDR hoped that by drastically decreasing the amount of land devoted to cotton, the AAA would arrest its long-plummeting price decline. Farmers plowed up existing crops and left fields fallow, and the market price did rise. But in an agricultural world of landowners and landless farmworkers (such as tenants and sharecroppers), the benefits of the AAA bypassed the southerners who needed them most. The government relied on landowners and local organizations to distribute money fairly to those most affected by production limits, but many owners simply kicked tenants and croppers off their land, kept the subsidy checks for keeping those acres fallow, and reinvested the profits in mechanical farming equipment that further suppressed the demand for labor. Instead of making farming profitable again, the AAA pushed landless southern farmworkers off the land.52

But Roosevelt’s assault on southern poverty took many forms. Southern industrial practices attracted much attention. The NRA encouraged higher wages and better conditions. It began to suppress the rampant use of child labor in southern mills and, for the first time, provided federal protection for unionized workers all across the country. Those gains were eventually solidified in the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set a national minimum wage of $/hour (eventually rising to $/hour). The minimum wage disproportionately affected low-paid southern workers and brought southern wages within the reach of northern wages.53

The president’s support for unionization further impacted the South. Southern industrialists had proven themselves ardent foes of unionization, particularly in the infamous southern textile mills. In , when workers at textile mills across the southern Piedmont struck over low wages and long hours, owners turned to local and state authorities to quash workers’ groups, even as they recruited thousands of strikebreakers from the many displaced farmers swelling industrial centers looking for work. But in the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, guaranteed the rights of most workers to unionize and bargain collectively. And so unionized workers, backed by the support of the federal government and determined to enforce the reforms of the New Deal, pushed for higher wages, shorter hours, and better conditions. With growing success, union members came to see Roosevelt as a protector of workers’ rights. Or, as one union leader put it, an “agent of God.”54

Perhaps the most successful New Deal program in the South was the TVA, an ambitious program to use hydroelectric power, agricultural and industrial reform, flood control, economic development, education, and healthcare to radically remake the impoverished watershed region of the Tennessee River. Though the area of focus was limited, Roosevelt’s TVA sought to “make a different type of citizen” out of the area’s penniless residents.55 The TVA built a series of hydroelectric dams to control flooding and distribute electricity to the otherwise nonelectrified areas at government-subsidized rates. Agents of the TVA met with residents and offered training and general education classes to improve agricultural practices and exploit new job opportunities. The TVA encapsulates Roosevelt’s vision for uplifting the South and integrating it into the larger national economy.56

Roosevelt initially courted conservative southern Democrats to ensure the legislative success of the New Deal, all but guaranteeing that the racial and economic inequalities of the region remained intact, but by the end of his second term, he had won the support of enough non-southern voters that he felt confident confronting some of the region’s most glaring inequalities. Nowhere was this more apparent than in his endorsement of a report, formulated by a group of progressive southern New Dealers, titled “A Report on Economic Conditions in the South.” The pamphlet denounced the hardships wrought by the southern economy—in his introductory letter to the report, Roosevelt called the region “the Nation’s No. 1 economic problem”—and blasted reactionary southern anti–New Dealers. He suggested that the New Deal could save the South and thereby spur a nationwide recovery. The report was among the first broadsides in Roosevelt’s coming reelection campaign that addressed the inequalities that continued to mark southern and national life.57

 

A photograph of Huey Long giving a speech. Also an inset image of a button that says "Share Our Wealth Society Every Man a King"

Huey Long was an indomitable force who campaigned tirelessly for the common man during the Great Depression. He demanded that Americans “Share the Wealth.” Wikimedia.

Despite the unprecedented actions taken in his first year in office, Roosevelt’s initial relief programs could often be quite conservative. He had usually been careful to work within the bounds of presidential authority and congressional cooperation. And, unlike Europe, where several nations had turned toward state-run economies, and even fascism and socialism, Roosevelt’s New Deal demonstrated a clear reluctance to radically tinker with the nation’s foundational economic and social structures. Many high-profile critics attacked Roosevelt for not going far enough, and, beginning in , Roosevelt and his advisors were forced to respond.

Senator Huey Long, a flamboyant Democrat from Louisiana, was perhaps the most important “voice of protest.” Long’s populist rhetoric appealed to those who saw deeply rooted but easily addressed injustice in the nation’s economic system. Long proposed a Share Our Wealth program in which the federal government would confiscate the assets of the extremely wealthy and redistribute them to the less well-off through guaranteed minimum incomes. “How many men ever went to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what’s intended for nine-tenths of the people to eat?” he asked. Over twenty-seven thousand Share the Wealth clubs sprang up across the nation as Long traveled the country explaining his program to crowds of impoverished and unemployed Americans. Long envisioned the movement as a stepping-stone to the presidency, but his crusade ended in late when he was assassinated on the floor of the Louisiana state capitol. Even in death, however, Long convinced Roosevelt to more stridently attack the Depression and American inequality.

But Huey Long was not alone in his critique of Roosevelt. Francis Townsend, a former doctor and public health official from California, promoted a plan for old-age pensions which, he argued, would provide economic security for the elderly (who disproportionately suffered poverty) and encourage recovery by allowing older workers to retire from the workforce. Reverend Charles Coughlin, meanwhile, a priest and radio personality from the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, gained a following by making vitriolic, anti-Semitic attacks on Roosevelt for cooperating with banks and financiers and proposing a new system of “social justice” through a more state-driven economy instead. Like Long, both Townsend and Coughlin built substantial public followings.

If many Americans urged Roosevelt to go further in addressing the economic crisis, the president faced even greater opposition from conservative politicians and business leaders. By late , complaints increased from business-friendly Republicans about Roosevelt’s willingness to regulate industry and use federal spending for public works and employment programs. In the South, Democrats who had originally supported the president grew more hostile toward programs that challenged the region’s political, economic, and social status quo. Yet the greatest opposition came from the Supreme Court, filled with conservative appointments made during the long years of Republican presidents.

By early the Court was reviewing programs of the New Deal. On May 27, a day Roosevelt’s supporters called Black Monday, the justices struck down one of the president’s signature reforms: in a case revolving around poultry processing, the Court unanimously declared the NRA unconstitutional. In early , the AAA fell.58

 

The New Deal enjoyed broad popularity. Democrats gained seats in the midterm elections, securing massive majorities in both the House and Senate. Bolstered by these gains, facing reelection in , and confronting rising opposition from both the left and the right, Roosevelt rededicated himself to bold programs and more aggressive approaches, a set of legislation often termed the Second New Deal. In included a nearly five-billion dollar appropriation that in established the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a permanent version of the CWA, which  would ultimately employ millions of Americans on public works projects. It would employ “the maximum number of persons in the shortest time possible,” Roosevelt said.59 Americans employed by the WPA paved more than half-a-million miles of roads, constructed thousands of bridges, built schools and post offices, and even painted murals and recorded oral histories. Not only did the program build much of America&#;s physical infrastructure, it came closer than any New Deal program to providing the federal jobs guarantee Roosevelt had promised in

Also in , hoping to reconstitute some of the protections afforded workers in the now-defunct NRA, Roosevelt worked with Congress to pass the National Labor Relations Act (known as the Wagner Act for its chief sponsor, New York senator Robert Wagner), offering federal legal protection, for the first time, for workers to organize unions. The labor protections extended by Roosevelt’s New Deal were revolutionary. In northern industrial cities, workers responded to worsening conditions by banding together and demanding support for workers’ rights. In , the head of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, took the lead in forming a new national workers’ organization, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), breaking with the more conservative, craft-oriented AFL. The CIO won a major victory in when affiliated members in the United Automobile Workers (UAW) struck for recognition and better pay and hours at a General Motors (GM) plant in Flint, Michigan. Launching a “sit-down” strike, the workers remained in the building until management agreed to negotiate. GM recognized the UAW and granted a pay increase. GM&#;s recognition gave the UAW new legitimacy and unionization spread rapidly across the auto industry. Across the country, unions and workers took advantage of the New Deal’s protections to organize and win major concessions from employers. Three years after the NLRA, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, creating the modern minimum wage. 

Photograph of striking workers guarding the entrance to a factory.

Unionization was met with fierce opposition from owners and managers, particularly in the manufacturing belt of the Mid-West. In this image, strikers guard the entrance to a Flint, Michigan, manufacturing plant. Library of Congress.

The Second New Deal also oversaw the restoration of a highly progressive federal income tax, mandated new reporting requirements for publicly traded companies, refinanced long-term home mortgages for struggling homeowners, and attempted rural reconstruction projects to bring farm incomes in line with urban ones.60 Perhaps the signature piece of Roosevelt’s Second New Deal, however, was the Social Security Act. It provided for old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, and economic aid, based on means, to assist both the elderly and dependent children. The president was careful to mitigate some of the criticism from what was, at the time, in the American context, a revolutionary concept. He specifically insisted that social security be financed from payroll, not the federal government; “No dole,” Roosevelt said repeatedly, “mustn’t have a dole.”61 He thereby helped separate social security from the stigma of being an undeserved “welfare” entitlement. While such a strategy saved the program from suspicions, social security became the centerpiece of the modern American social welfare state. It was the culmination of a long progressive push for government-sponsored social welfare, an answer to the calls of Roosevelt’s opponents on the Left for reform, a response to the intractable poverty among America’s neediest groups, and a recognition that the government would now assume some responsibility for the economic well-being of its citizens. ((W. Andrew Achenbaum, Old Age in the New Land (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, ); Edwin E. Witte, The Development of the Social Security Act (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, ).)) Nevertheless, the act excluded large swaths of the American population. Its pension program excluded domestic workers and farm workers, for instance, a policy that disproportionately affected African Americans. Roosevelt recognized that social security&#;s programs would need expansion and improvement. “This law,&#; he said, &#;represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.”62

 

Black Americans faced discrimination everywhere but suffered especially severe legal inequality in the Jim Crow South. In , for instance, a group of nine young men riding the rails between Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee, were pulled from the train near Scottsboro, Alabama, and charged with assaulting two white women. Despite clear evidence that the assault had not occurred, and despite one of the women later recanting, the young men endured a series of sham trials in which all but one were sentenced to death. Only the communist-oriented International Legal Defense (ILD) came to the aid of the “Scottsboro Boys,” who soon became a national symbol of continuing racial prejudice in America and a rallying point for civil rights–minded Americans. In appeals, the ILD successfully challenged the boys’ sentencing, and the death sentences were either commuted or reversed, although the last of the accused did not receive parole until 63

Despite a concerted effort to appoint Black advisors to some New Deal programs, Franklin Roosevelt did little to specifically address the particular difficulties Black communities faced. To do so openly would provoke southern Democrats and put his New Deal coalition—–the uneasy alliance of national liberals, urban laborers, farm workers, and southern whites—at risk. Roosevelt not only rejected such proposals as abolishing the poll tax and declaring lynching a federal crime, he refused to specifically target African American needs in any of his larger relief and reform packages. As he explained to the national secretary of the NAACP, “I just can’t take that risk.”64

In fact, many of the programs of the New Deal had made hard times more difficult. When the codes of the NRA set new pay scales, they usually took into account regional differentiation and historical data. In the South, where African Americans had long suffered unequal pay, the new codes simply perpetuated that inequality. The codes also exempted those involved in farm work and domestic labor, the occupations of a majority of southern Black men and women. The AAA was equally problematic as owners displaced Black tenants and sharecroppers, many of whom were forced to return to their farms as low-paid day labor or to migrate to cities looking for wage work.65

Perhaps the most notorious failure of the New Deal to aid African Americans came with the passage of the Social Security Act. Southern politicians chafed at the prospect of African Americans benefiting from federally sponsored social welfare, afraid that economic security would allow Black southerners to escape the cycle of poverty that kept them tied to the land as cheap, exploitable farm laborers. The Jackson (Mississippi) Daily News callously warned that “The average Mississippian can’t imagine himself chipping in to pay pensions for able-bodied Negroes to sit around in idleness . . . while cotton and corn crops are crying for workers.” Roosevelt agreed to remove domestic workers and farm laborers from the provisions of the bill, excluding many African Americans, already laboring under the strictures of legal racial discrimination, from the benefits of an expanding economic safety net.66

Women, too, failed to receive the full benefits of New Deal programs. On one hand, Roosevelt included women in key positions within his administration, including the first female cabinet secretary, Frances Perkins, and a prominently placed African American advisor in the National Youth Administration, Mary McLeod Bethune. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a key advisor to the president and became a major voice for economic and racial justice. But many New Deal programs were built on the assumption that men would serve as breadwinners and women as mothers, homemakers, and consumers. New Deal programs aimed to help both but usually by forcing such gendered assumptions, making it difficult for women to attain economic autonomy. New Deal social welfare programs tended to funnel women into means-tested, state-administered relief programs while reserving entitlement benefits for male workers, creating a kind of two-tiered social welfare state. And so, despite great advances, the New Deal failed to challenge core inequalities that continued to mark life in the United States.67

 

By , Roosevelt and his New Deal won record popularity. In November, Roosevelt annihilated his Republican challenger, Governor Alf Landon of Kansas, who lost in every state save Maine and Vermont. The Great Depression had certainly not ended, but it appeared to be retreating, and Roosevelt, now safely reelected, appeared ready to take advantage of both his popularity and the improving economic climate to press for even more dramatic changes. But conservative barriers continued to limit the power of his popular support. The Supreme Court, for instance, continued to gut many of his programs.

In , concerned that the Court might overthrow social security in an upcoming case, Roosevelt called for legislation allowing him to expand the Court by appointing a new, younger justice for every sitting member over age seventy. Roosevelt argued that the measure would speed up the Court’s ability to handle a growing backlog of cases; however, his “court-packing scheme,” as opponents termed it, was clearly designed to allow the president to appoint up to six friendly, pro–New Deal justices to drown the influence of old-time conservatives on the Court. Roosevelt’s “scheme” riled opposition and did not become law, but the chastened Court thereafter upheld social security and other pieces of New Deal legislation. Moreover, Roosevelt was slowly able to appoint more amenable justices as conservatives died or retired. Still, the court-packing scheme damaged the Roosevelt administration emboldened New Deal opponents68

Compounding his problems, Roosevelt and his advisors made a costly economic misstep. Believing the United States had turned a corner, Roosevelt cut spending in The American economy plunged nearly to the depths of – Roosevelt reversed course and, adopting the approach popularized by the English economist John Maynard Keynes, hoped that countercyclical, compensatory spending would pull the country out of the recession, even at the expense of a growing budget deficit. It was perhaps too late. The Roosevelt Recession of became fodder for critics. Combined with the court-packing scheme, the recession allowed for significant gains by a conservative coalition of southern Democrats and Midwestern Republicans in the midterm elections. By , Roosevelt struggled to build congressional support for new reforms, let alone maintain existing agencies. Moreover, the growing threat of war in Europe stole the public’s attention and increasingly dominated Roosevelt’s interests. The New Deal slowly receded into the background, outshined by war.69

 

By the end of the s, Roosevelt and his Democratic Congresses had presided over a transformation of the American government and a realignment in American party politics. Before World War I, the American national state, though powerful, had been a “government out of sight.” After the New Deal, Americans came to see the federal government as a potential ally in their daily struggles, whether finding work, securing a decent wage, getting a fair price for agricultural products, or organizing a union. Voter turnout in presidential elections jumped in and again in , with most of these newly mobilized voters forming a durable piece of the Democratic Party that would remain loyal well into the s. Even as affluence returned with the American intervention in World War II, memories of the Depression continued to shape the outlook of two generations of Americans.70 Survivors of the Great Depression, one man would recall in the late s, “are still riding with the ghost—the ghost of those days when things came hard.”71

Historians debate when the New Deal ended. Some identify the Fair Labor Standards Act of as the last major New Deal measure. Others see wartime measures such as price and rent control and the G.I. Bill (which afforded New Deal–style social benefits to veterans) as species of New Deal legislation. Still others conceive of a “New Deal order,” a constellation of “ideas, public policies, and political alliances,” which, though changing, guided American politics from Roosevelt’s Hundred Days forward to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society—and perhaps even beyond. Indeed, the New Deal’s legacy still remains, and its battle lines still shape American politics.

 

1. Herbert Hoover on the New Deal ()

Americans elected a string of conservative Republicans to the presidency during the boom years of the s. When the economy crashed in , however, and the nation descended deeper into the Great Depression, voters abandoned the Republican Party and conservative politicians struggled to in office. In this speech on the eve of the election, Herbert Hoover warned against Franklin Roosevelt’s proposed New Deal.

2. Huey P. Long, “Every Man a King” and “Share our Wealth” ()

Amid the economic indignities of the Great Depression, Huey P. Long of Louisiana championed an aggressive program of public spending and wealth redistribution. Critics denounced Long, who served as both governor and a senator from Louisiana, as a corrupt demagogue, but “the Kingfish” appealed to impoverished Louisianans and Americans wracked by joblessness and resentful of American economic inequality. He was assassinated before he could mount his independent bid for the White House in In the following extracts from two of his most famous speeches, Long outlines his political program.

3. Franklin Roosevelt’s Re-Nomination Acceptance Speech ()

In July 27, , President Franklin Roosevelt accepted his re-nomination as the Democratic Party’s presidential choice. In his acceptance speech, Roosevelt laid out his understanding of what “freedom” and “tyranny” meant in an industrial democracy.

4. Second Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt ()

After winning a landslide victory in his quest for a second presidential term, President Franklin Roosevelt championed again the ambitious goals of his New Deal economic programs and their relationship to American democracy.

5. Lester Hunter, “I’d Rather Not Be on Relief” ()

Lester Hunter left the Dust Bowl for the fields of California and wrote this poem, later turned into a song by migrant workers in California’s Farm Security Administration camps. The “C.I.O.” in the final line refers to the Congress of Industrial Unions, a powerful new industrial union founded in

6. Bertha McCall on America’s “Moving People” ()

Bertha McCall, general director of the National Travelers Aid Association, acquired a special knowledge of the massive displacement of individuals and families during the Great Depression. In , McCall testified before the House of Representatives’ Select Committee to Investigate the Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens on the nature of America’s internal migrants.

7. Dorothy West, “Amateur Night in Harlem” ()

Amateur night at the Apollo Theater attracted not only Harlem’s African American population but a national radio audience. In this account, written through the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project, Dorothy West describes an amateur night at the theater in November and reflects on the relationship between entertainment, race, and American life.

8. Family Walking on Highway ()

During her assignment as a photographer for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Dorothea Lange documented the movement of migrant families forced from their homes by drought and economic depression. This family was in the process of traveling miles by foot, across Oklahoma, because the father was unable to receive relief or WPA work of his own due to an illness.

9. “Bonus Army Routed” ()

This short newsreel clip made by British film company Pathé shows the federal government’s response to the thousands of WWI veterans who organized in Washington DC during the summer of to form what was called a “Bonus Army.” At the demand of attorney general, the marchers were violently removed from government property.

This chapter was edited by Matthew Downs and Eric Rauchway, with content contributed by Dana Cochran, Matthew Downs, Benjamin Helwege, Elisa Minoff, Eric Rauchway, Caitlin Verboon, and Mason Williams.

Recommended citation: Dana Cochran et al., “The Great Depression,” Matthew Downs, ed., in The American Yawp, eds. Joseph Locke and Ben Wright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, ).

 

Recommended Reading

  1. Balderrama, Francisco E., and Raymond Rodríguez. Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the s, rev. ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press,
  2. Brinkley, Alan. The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War. New York: Knopf,
  3. ———. Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression. New York: Knopf,
  4. Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, – New York: Cambridge University Press,
  5. Cowie, Jefferson, and Nick Salvatore. “The Long Exception: Rethinking the Place of the New Deal in American History.” International Labor and Working-Class History 74 (Fall ): 1–
  6. Dickstein, Morris. Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression. New York: Norton,
  7. Fraser, Steve, and Gary Gerstle, eds. The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, – Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
  8. Gilmore, Glenda E. Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, – New York: Norton,
  9. Gordon, Colin. New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics in America – New York: Cambridge University Press,
  10. Gordon, Linda. Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits. New York: Norton,
  11. ———. Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare – New York: Free Press,
  12. Greene, Alison Collis. No Depression in Heaven: The Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Transformation of Religion in the Delta. New York: Oxford University Press,
  13. Katznelson, Ira. Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time. New York: Norton,
  14. Kelly, Robin D. G. Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
  15. Kennedy, David. Freedom from Fear: America in Depression and War, – New York: Oxford University Press,
  16. Kessler-Harris, Alice. In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press,
  17. Leach, William. Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture. New York: Pantheon Books,
  18. Leuchtenburg, William. Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, – New York: Harper and Row,
  19. Pells, Richard. Radical Visions and American Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years. New York: Harper and Row,
  20. Phillips, Kimberly L. Alabama North: African-American Migrants, Community and Working-Class Activism in Cleveland, Champaign: University of Illinois Press,
  21. Phillips–Fein, Kim. Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal. New York: Norton,
  22. Sitkoff, Harvard. A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue. New York: Oxford University Press,
  23. Sullivan, Patricia. Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
  24. Tani, Karen. States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, – Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press,
  25. Wright, Gavin. Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy Since the Civil War. Baton Rouge: LSU Press,

Notes

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